A Season for Hope, Joy and Confidence - First Sunday in Advent

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > A Season for Hope, Joy and Confidence - First Sunday in Advent

I love the season of Advent. It is quite short, four weeks. It always passes so quickly because the end of the year is always so hectic and we all get caught up in the preparations for Christmas and the holidays that follow. It is easy to miss what Advent can offer us. Yet, it has so much to offer us. 

It is a season that engenders three special Christian virtues: hope, joy, and confidence. 

The Old Testament readings of the Advent season draw us into the hope that encouraged the Jewish people during, at times, centuries of desolation. Thus the first reading today, from the Prophet Jeremiah, says, “See, the days are coming when I am going to fulfil the promise I made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah.”

The days are coming. It would be some centuries before these words were realised in the birth of Jesus Christ. However, the words offered hope. God would act and come to the aid of his people. It was hope that sustained the people during their dark and uncertain times. They clung to these prophesies.

These words have meaning for us in our time. At this moment in our history we can sense that many things are slipping from our grasp. We can feel impotent before forces that are at work around us. In the midst of this experience the words of the prophets come to us as well.

The Lord has not abandoned us. God has not forgotten us. So we, like the Jewish people, can live in hope. We press on in the belief that God will act. The prophet said, “In those days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall live in confidence.” Something better awaits. We may or may not see it, but God will act within human history. There will be expressions of his mercy and grace, as there has been throughout human history.

God is active within history. He moves often in unexpected ways, but God does act. He will act. The awareness of this nourishes an abiding hope in our hearts. We never despair or give up. Hope helps us keep going.

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The Advent season prepares us for the celebration of Christmas. It is a time of spiritual preparation to welcome the coming of our Saviour. The spirit of the season in this instance is that of joy. As Christmas approaches the quality of joy receives more attention. As Pope Francis has reminded us, joy is the defining mark of the Christian. The Gospel announcement of God coming to save is the source of our joy.

We are joyful as Christians because we know that Christ has come. At Christmas we rejoice in the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. The joy we experience flows from our awareness that God has come among us. The word we highlight in the latter part of the advent season is the word Emmanuel – God is with us.

Our Christmas carols are chiefly songs of joy: “Joy to the world the Lord is come.” The joy we express is linked to the way in which the Lord has come. Not in power and majesty, but in simplicity and humility. He has come silently. He has come in a truly human way. His birth reflects the desire of God to be among ordinary people and this reveals that God is willing to engage with our concrete lives.

God has revealed himself as approachable. In the weekday readings given during this Advent season there are Gospel stories that reveal the compassion of Christ for the poor and suffering. God has come to heal and encourage. God is a god of mercy and compassion. God reaches out to humanity in its struggles and hardships. God has come to save us.
This realisation enkindles the joy in our hearts during this season.

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The season also reminds us that Christ will come again in glory. Today’s Gospel expresses this. The depictions of the final coming of the Lord describe the rising up of destructive forces. The Gospels do present rather frightening images. However, the Lord provides us with clear instructions as to how we are to respond. He says, “Stand erect, hold your heads high.” The coming of the Lord at the end of time is the definitive coming of the Kingdom of God. Finally justice will be ensured and peace will reign.

This thought gives us courage and reminds us that we can face the future with confidence. Good will finally triumph over evil. All our struggles are not in vain. Thus, we are given new heart in our efforts for justice, for peace, for truth, for life. We continue to strive for what we know is right and good. We do not give up.

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The Advent season is a time when we can be renewed in spirit, when we can embrace the virtue of hope. It is a season that invites us to lift our hearts to God in joy. It is a season that reminds us that in the end goodness, truth and beauty will be in the ascendency and we can face the future with confidence.

So in the brief weeks ahead – which will pass so quickly – let us try to savour something of this beautiful season of Advent.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 1 December 2018