Come, Lord Jesus, Come!
Advent is all about waiting. But not sit on your-hands and see what happens kind of waiting. Nor waiting for someone else who is talking to God to hang up. It’s more like a glorious party line. You can pick up (or click on at any time). Whenever you’re ready. It is wonderful that we do not have to take turns – we don’t have to wait to be in touch! At the heart of Advent is ACTIVE waiting. Even when we don’t know that we are waiting, or what we are waiting for, we’re waiting. Even when we can’t find words for what we are waiting for, we’re waiting.
We’ve been waiting for so long, actually for most of our lives, that the darkness may feel like home. We’ve become comfortable in our incompleteness. Now to leave home is downright scary! Change my ways of interacting with God and God’s people? Whew! Allow my rough edges to be smoothed – mmmm, sounds irritating (no pun intended). We are gifted with Advent-time to do personal “Isaiah work” of filling in every valley; leveling every mountain so the hills will become a plain, and the rough ways made smooth. As the familiar banner asks: If not now, when?
There is a TV reality show on restaurant revival that is introduced with a premise that sounds like a good Advent theme. “Turning around a failing restaurant or diner is a daunting challenge under the best of circumstances. Attempting to do so … may be impossible. But we’re ready to take on the challenge. Can it be done?”
From outdated décor to trendy interior, from canned food to fresh ingredients, from surly employees to service-oriented staff, they attempt to overhaul the whole shebang with straight talk, great cooking skills, creative interior decorators and an excited team of mostly volunteers. The most important ingredient to the success of the project depends on the employees. When the TV crew arrives, the expectation is that the local staff will be ready with their litany of what is going well and what they’d like to see changed. They are looking for help to determine, and then implement the next best steps to be taken.
There is no pretense each week to portray the chef as a Christ figure, but one may see an analogy between our Advent Scriptures and the theme of this human example of this dramatic overhaul driven by someone who knows what they’re doing. The overhaul of the run-down and failing restaurant, and our personal overhaul, is only possible if we’ll allow our goals and projects to be placed under wise management. For us that’s Jesus, the One who’s coming to town in our Advent scriptures.
The Gospels that we’ll hear throughout the Advent season make frequent two-fold references to the already and the not yet. This Sunday, Jesus berates the crowd for knowing how to interpret the signs in nature, but not the present time, the already. This is where we, too, may fall short. Often, even before one’s feet hit the floor, we tune in (or ask Alexia) for the day’s weather conditions, adjust the AC or heater and dress accordingly. At the threat of a hurricane, we gather in supplies and hunker down. We see the waxing moon and wait patiently for the night of the full moon. This kind of waiting requires a common sense alertness to natural signs. But the kind of waiting Jesus is talking about requires a deeper discernment and alertness to the signs of His appearance – the signs of the times, our times.
Advent offers us a new opportunity to awaken to the signs of the times. In the words of John the Baptist, we hear the voice of Isaiah warning us to be alert for “the voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord.” The last Gospel we heard as the liturgical year ended (this morning) and the first Gospel for the new liturgical year impress upon us the same warning: Be vigilant! Pray always! Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy!
One of the ancient Advent prayers offers us sentiments that Benedict echoes in the Rule: “Give us grace that we may cast off the works of darkness and put upon us the armor of light.” Many Advent hymns express this same theme. For example (the hymn we sang on Friday) – “Wise and foolish, still we wait. Is the bridegroom at the gate? Clear the shadows from our sight, fill our eyes with radiant light. Come, Lord Jesus, come!”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress