Advent is anticipation! But most of us don’t think about what we are to anticipate in the way that Jeremiah foretold. He spoke of the coming of a new age, of justice and of restoration. So does the Psalmist for today also speak of anticipation. Now is the advent of peace, rescue from affliction, and the fulfillment of justice!
In this time of holiday busyness, it is not easy to think about the people who are afflicted with injustices, poverty, and pitiful circumstances and anticipate their rescue. And further, it isn’t easy for the afflicted to be comforted by the good news that God is in their midst when they read it and hear it. Their experiences shape for them quite a different reality. It would seem that the lessons for today and the story of the birth of Jesus are irrelevant for the world in which we live. It’s a lot easier to reduce it all to a consumer fun fest and family festivities -- something concrete that we can relate to.
But it is more fitting at this time of Advent that we take out time to reflect on the message of peace and justice God sent in the birth of Jesus and to make ourselves ready for it to be a concrete reality. Our preparation for Christmas should be anticipation that God will rescue us from all the sin and suffering in this world that separates us from God and from each other. That rescue is for all of us, regardless of our afflictions. We should all be anticipating the celebration of God’s justice and peace and how it fills our hearts and lives. And we should share that peace in some very concrete way with the poor and the afflicted so that they too will feel the presence of Emmanuel and experience a sense of the peace and justice God wills for us all.
As I grow older, I find myself anticipating more and more that peace and justice that the Psalmist says will flourish in fullness for ever. The world is often a very cruel and unjust place. As an anthropologist, my participatory observations of the poor and the afflicted bring their lives very close to mine. But the Christmas season is a special time when I can recognize that God is with us in the midst of it all. It’s a time to celebrate God’s glory and peace here on this earth. It is also a time to commit myself to more fully participate in helping to bring justice to the afflicted in very concrete ways.
We usually get more blessings out of the Advent season if we anticipate the coming of the Christ with peace and justice than if we anticipate the gathering of friends and family with food and gifts. We also feel that presence more when we center our anticipation in the midst of poverty and pain. While parties, presents and laughter are also gifts from God, we should not lose sight that only a privileged few enjoy them in this world. It bears repeating that the true gifts of Christmas are peace, justice, and love for everyone. It is my prayer that during this Advent season, the anticipation that God rescues, renews, restores, and redeems us through the birth of Jesus is my heartfelt focus. I also pray that this time of anticipation will lead me to more concrete ways to share God’s peace and justice on earth.