Fr. Nicholas Onyait MCCJ
It is Advent again. We begin the new liturgical year with this opportune time of hope. Perhaps for some Catholics having lived it many times, it is again that traditional season that we observe in order to usher in Christmas. However, the season of advent always offers something new especially in as far as the prevailing situations in the world are concerned. The word advent comes from the Latin word Adventus, which means the coming. It is a time of hope and expectancy for the coming of the messiah. It is a time in which we await the messiah. The call to stay awake (Mathew 24:42) and to prepare the way for the Lord (Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-8) that we shall hear several times from the Holy scripture, is a reminder of the necessity of prior preparation for this moment.
One may ask the relevance of this season for us when Christ was already born 2000 years ago? However, Advent never loses importance; it is still relevant for us because the prevailing situations at the time in which the Israelites awaited the messiah are also prevalent in our time today. Their existential situation was that of oppression, marginalization and exclusion, and so they longed for a time in which the Lord God would liberate them.
We are living at a time when our hope is that the pandemic may come to an end. We are living at a time when our hope is that there will be no more political oppression, insecurity and exploitation of the poor. We are also living at a time when each and every day there is an increasing gap between the rich and the poor. In other words, we are living at a time when we need to be liberated from different kinds of oppressions and social injustices. Thus, these concrete circumstances render the season of advent a living moment. The words of the famous Advent hymn, “Christ come quickly, there is danger at the door, poverty a plenty, hearts gone wild with war. There is hunger in the city, and famine on the plain. Come Lord Jesus the light is dying, the night keeps crying, come Lord Jesus”, are real and undoubtably express our genuine cry for God’s intervention.
Advent is therefore, for us a time to relive that hope and expectation with the inclination that the messiah, the word made flesh will be incarnate in us and come to our aid. The incarnation that we hope for will transform the hearts of the oppressors and perpetrators of injustice into the heart of the messiah, the compassionate good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. The four weeks of Advent bring us each time closer to the incarnation as the light of the Advent wreath keeps increasing each week and hope, faith, joy and peace begin to take root in our hearts. God assumes the human form in Jesus and he comes to dwell among us in the solemnity of Christmas. Then our prayer becomes that the divinity that assumes the human may divinify humanity and unite it with him.
For this to happen, the season of Advent calls for ardent prayer, penance, conversion and making sacrifices that will render our life and our whole being oriented towards the author of life and deliverer of humanity. The joy of the Jews at Christmas becomes our joy because of the realization of our hope. We therefore open our hands to receive and celebrate Emmanuel, God who comes to dwell among us.