Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Welcome to Advent!
We all know what it’s like to walk into a darkness that’s filled with fear.
Advent, however, offers us a different experience: darkness that’s filled with anticipation.
I’d like to pause there and reflect on the combination of darkness and anticipation, because our readings from Isaiah all week reflect this theme.
Isaiah’s context was certainly one of darkness! Moral and religious corruption characterized the internal situation of Israel; political and military threats characterized the external situation. And yet, at this very moment of darkness, Isaiah’s message was filled with hope. Some of the most beautiful prophecies of the Messiah were spoken in this context.
Almost 50 times this week, we hear Isaiah say “will” or “shall” with respect to the blessings the Lord will bestow on Israel. Six times he gives a picture of what will happen “on that day.” For example: “On that day … there shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord.” He fills us with anticipation when he announces: “But a very little while, and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard regarded as a forest.”
We see something similar in the feast of St. Andrew, which we celebrate this week (Nov. 30). When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, and then James and John, they left everything and followed Him. There was a certain kind of darkness there: they certainly didn’t know all the contours of what they were signing up for! Still, they were drawn, and drawn with joy. It strikes me that this very combination characterizes the couple who approaches the altar to be married, or the couple who is about to give birth to their first child. The darkness of not knowing is filled with anticipation.
I think all of these things offer us a paradigm for approaching All Things New in the coming months. We’ve finished our listening sessions. Now, we continue the work of planning. And there’s a certain kind of darkness: We don’t know what the next steps will hold.
How will we approach that darkness?
We can approach it with fear and anxiety. We know how to do that! But it will make the coming months long and counter-productive.
Instead, I propose that we approach the coming months with an attitude shaped by Advent, Isaiah and St. Andrew. I think we know how to do that, too! This week, as Advent starts, let’s build our habit of approaching darkness with hope and anticipation.