Home » Advent Gospel Encouragement – 6th December 2020

Advent Gospel Encouragement – 6th December 2020

Dear sisters and brothers,

As we celebrate Santa Claus’ (St Nicholas) feast day this Sunday, our Advent ‘retreat’ – because that’s what this season is, in a sense – gives us some beautiful imagery to reflect on.  We hear:

– ‘Console my people, console them…Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her.”

–  “A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord.”

– ‘Shout with a loud voice, joyful messenger to Jerusalem. Shout without fear… “Here is your God”.’

– ‘He is like a shepherd feeding his flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.’

– ‘The Lord is not being slow to carry out his promises…but he is being patient with you all, wanting nobody to be lost.’

– ‘I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

Why are these words so beautiful, so profound.  The majority of them are from the prophet Isaiah, who was often referred to as the fifth evangelist by the early church, because his prophecies spoke so clearly of the coming of Christ.  The context that he spoke into was echoed in the time of Christ, and continues to be echoed for us today.  In the three different sections of his book, Isaiah spoke to the people of Israel, warning them that if they continued in their sin and failed to trust God, that they would be taken into exile, and that exile came to pass.  Once in exile, he continued to speak to them of God’s mercy and that the Lord would bring them home, which he did.  Finally, once they had returned from exile he encouraged them to be faithful to the ways of God.  Throughout his writings, whilst challenging them, Isaiah is seeking to console Israel, that though things seem dark, all will be well in the Lord.  That spoke to the people of his own time, and spoke to the people in the time when Jesus walked on the earth and continues to speak to us today.

Prior to Christ being revealed to the world, the voice that Isaiah prophesied – John the Baptist – came crying in the wilderness of Israel’s exile from God, the spiritual exile that was the result of their hardened hearts.  He came like a joyful messenger, and what was the message of this fearless messenger?  His message was that the king – God – had won a great victory over sin and death, and that he came not as a conqueror, but as a gentle shepherd, tending lovingly to his flock, his people, the church, in the person of Jesus.  Jesus’ tender victory is that God has entered the world in human form, fully human and fully divine, as a vulnerable baby.  And how does that tender vulnerability reveal his kingship?  It is there for all to see in God made man – our Creator – dying on the Cross to take on board the punishment for our sins, the sins of his creatures.  And it continues to be revealed in the patience that St Peter speaks of in the second reading.  Jesus is patient with our sinfulness, with our hardness of heart, with our brokenness, as we slowly understand the enormity of what he has done for us.  Why?  Because he doesn’t want anybody to be lost, but all of us to be saved as we grow in and through our ever increasing openness to the Holy Spirit in whom he has Baptised us; the Spirit of Jesus himself who lives in each and every one of us.  He gives us the gift of time; time to realise the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives, to reflect on the ways in which we have turned away from God and to choose to come home to him.

As we remember Santa Claus today, let’s reflect on what it truly means to be the gift giver that St Nicholas modeled.  It means to give to God the gift of our ever growing faith; to give to others the message of Jesus’ victory; and to prepare ourselves to receive the gift that God gives us in himself – in the person of Jesus in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, the promise of his return to us in the fullness of time, and in the presence of the Holy Spirit in the here and now, choosing to make each of us his home.  Let us each be that joyful messenger, shouting without fear… “Here is your God”.

Happy Advent!!!

With every blessing,

Simon