First Sunday of Advent – November 28, 1976 – CNR
Advent is a time for beginnings. It begins, of course, the Church’s liturgical year. In its readings, it brings us before central features of God’s revelation from which Christian faith begins and around which it must always center. It can, therefore, be a time for us to retrieve our origins and to redirect our efforts towards our Christian goal.
We are, first, brought within the fundamental truth of Christian revelation. “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise.” The first word of God to us always is promise. Out of the darkness light was called into being on the first day of creation, and out of every shadow of sin and error God’s word hasever since called forth in promise every light we have been given to see. “Days are coming, says the Lord”: days when what is will no longer be, when what is not will have come to be. “Days are coming” when what we still are not we will be: “In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; and they shall call her, ‘The Lord our justice.'” Revelation is first a word of promise, and faith begins as hope.
But our beginnings are also a word of fulfilment: the days did come when the Lord fulfilled his promise, when Jerusalem knew the presence of God’s justice in Jesus Christ. There was then a new beginning of God’s word, a new creation, a new light shattering darkness: a word of comfort, the announcement of God’s irrevocable gift of himself to our hearts and to our community. Promise has become fulfillment, and faith centers upon welcome and thanksgiving.
In the early Christian community and in our community today, this fulfilment is itself promise once again. We have received the Spirit of Christ as pledge and foretaste of other days to come, when everything in us and everything in the world that inhibits the working of God’s grace and power among us will have been done away with. By living in that new promise and that new hope, we can receive the days to come as days for the overflowing of our love and the strengthening of our hearts, as St. Paul prayed. Days are given to us for our continued progress, until the great Day of the Lord. Fulfilment is itself promise, and faith stretches out towards sight.
We live, then, in two moments: between promise and fulfilment, and between fulfilment and promise. There were Christians in the early Church who saw only fulfilment, and Paul had to call them to their duties before promises and grace yet to come. There are Christians today who neglect the fulfilment that is in Christ and the foretaste already given in the experience of the Spirit’s love, and they must hear the word of God’s present comfort. Proper Christian living, we should see, centers, as St. Paul said, upon the three great and abiding things: faith, hope and love: faith which rests in what God has already given, hope which anticipates what he still promises, and love which rejoices in what has come to be and fits us for the One who still shall come for our comfort and our peace.