It's moments like these I wish I had prepared better for the season beforehand. To be honest, I didn't prepare myself particularly well at all this year, and so here it is the second week and I'm only just beginning to get in an appropriate frame of mind. It makes me wish Advent was longer (even most Lents I don't start really seeing any spiritual benefits in my life until the last week or two - the old ανθρωπος is stubborn).
Still, the season is so rich (and so sadly neglected and often ignored). And it fits one's experience no matter what is going on in one's life.If one finds oneself in adversity, Advent lifts one's cries of desperation and pleading onto a higher plane, plugging you into the long trials of Israel, and reminding you of the fact that we still await the day when Jesus Christ shall return and at last put all to rights. The spirit of the season is perfectly encapsulated in the Kyrie eleison, the cry of the beggar, the cry of the drowning man, the cry of one in desperate straits for whom all other helps have failed. Advent promises deliverance. He will come to your aid at last; only wait and you will see.
On the other hand, if one is in a good place in one's life, if one finds oneself at the centre of God's will, and content, Advent puts before us the blessed expectation, the joy of imminent ineffable delight. The air is thick with excitement, like the days before a wedding, like waiting in line for the premiere of a film of whose story one has been a longtime fan. Joy beyond all imagining, glory and beauty yet unseen lie around the corner, with which nothing in our present experience can compare, for which nothing in our present experience can prepare us. He is coming. Or rather, He is coming back. And "the sufferings of this present time [will not be] worth comparing with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Rom 8:18)
Tonight, the first reading (which I got to read- woot!) was from Baruch. Basically the whole of chapter 5. In the face of total disaster, the conquest, the exile, Baruch gives a prophecy of gradually increasing exultation, a crescendo of joy. All of these griefs will pale. God will bring the people back. They shall serve Him in truth. It is from the perspective of the ruined city herself, a prophecy that she should look out because all those who went out from her in disgrace shall return in glory. The expectation is palpable. "Arise, Jerusalem. Stand on high. Look to the east."
Then we have John the Baptist in the gospel. Out he comes from the desert. Back into society from his near lifelong exile from the company of men. But he has a message. And it is, in some ways, the same as Baruch's. God is coming. Get ready. You will soon see what He will do.
After the sermon, we appropriately had this hymn, which I love (in particular I like the third verse):
On Jordan's Bank the Baptist's Cry"by Charles Coffin,
On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh;
Come, then, and hearken, for he brings
Glad tidings from the King of kings.
2. Then cleansed by every breast from sin
Make straight the way for God within;
Prepare we in our hearts a home
Where such a mighty guest may come.
3. For You are our salvation, Lord,
Our refuge, and our great reward.
Without Your grace we waste away
Like flow'rs that wither and decay.
4. To heal the sick, stretch out Your hand
And bid the fallen sinner stand;
Shine forth, and let Your light restore
Earth's own true loveliness once more.
5. To Him Who left the throne of heav'n
To free mankind, all praise be giv'n;
Like praise be to the Father done,
And Holy Spirit, Three in One.