Streaming to the city

Advent opens with “all the nations streaming to God’s city.” Jerusalem is the “true pole” of the earth (Ps 48). People head for the city like Brent geese flocking in their thousands to their breeding grounds in northern Canada. Or like the wildebeest that migrate in huge numbers to their summer pastures in the Serengeti. There is a great physical sense of movement which was seen in the Jewish pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the yearly Pasch or as people of the Muslim fa

This is the image in Isaiah and for us as we enter Advent. It is a spiritual journey of faith, a setting of our compass towards the true pole of our life. Advent means “coming” and of course we are told from our youth that it is a time of preparing for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. But in a sense this is misleading since he has already come and the last thing we want to do is to celebrate some ancient event merely as an excuse for shopping, eating and drinking.

If Jesus has already come – and he has – what are we celebrating? We are certainly not looking forward to his coming, unless one is thinking of his second coming and there seems to be little point sitting around waiting for that, as Paul pointed out some time ago (2 Thess 3:11). No, he has already come and the gospels all speak of this. For example, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it” (Luke 1:23-24).

So the focus in Advent is not about Jesus’ coming but about our coming. We are called to come to Jerusalem, in other words, to accept totally that he has come into the world and established his reign. It is not a reign of power and police but a gentle reign of invitation and acceptance. It is two thousand years since the definitive and final proclamation of his reign and how does the world look after all that time? There has been terrific progress and I am not just talking about ipods and air travel. The progress is also in the human spirit. People are more free today than they have ever been. People have more chances now than ever to make their own choices about how to use their talents and what profession to follow, and the gospel has been proclaimed, and partly accepted, in every corner of the earth. But as soon as we say such things we know of the bleak shadow that hangs over us. There are so many for whom these things are not true and there is still so much injustice and pain. We still have a long way to go on our Advent journey before we make our own what we already have; where we embrace the Jesus who has already come. Perhaps it is something like our little corner of the world: Zimbabwe. Many of us remember how we longed for it to come. And we eventually got it. It is a fact. But we still have not owned it. In this sense we too are “advent” people on a journey to unwrap the parcel we already have.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *