Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent 2016

By Diann Wimmer

Norbertine Associate, St. Norbert Abbey

Diann Wimmer

Diann Wimmer

Prepare the Way of the Lord:
Imagine profound PEACE.
Live in HARMONY and HOPE.
Be filled with FIRE and the HOLY SPIRIT.

The Scripture readings of the second Sunday of Advent again prove that the Bible prefers to “talk in images.” Today we hear the stories of animals, trees, deserts, mountains, sandals, locusts, wild honey, water, and fire. Each story with its images holds the secret of a deep spiritual reality.

For example, imagine a shoot that sprouts from a stump. With surprise, we see new life—an awakening from what seemed dead. Like the shoot, God’s action comes forth when least expected and when the world is troubled with violent death. But God brings life, love, and light to a dark world.

Could this shoot, this promise of new life, be the story of Christmas?

Also imagine animals that, by instinct, are hostile and aggressive, but now exist in harmony and peace: the lion and the lamb or the leopard and the kid. This reading reminds one of the peaceable kingdom of the Garden of Eden. But our world suffers disorder and war and needs to hear of the proclamation of Psalm 72: “Justice shall flower in his days, and profound peace, till the moon be no more.”

Could the coming of this impossible peace be the promise of Christmas?

Then imagine the Glory of Sion, the Holy Mountain, a center for a new world where people of all nations come together. A new exodus where people from north, south, east, and west move as ONE, singing with one accord and with one voice.

Could this harmony among all nations be the invitation of Christmas?

Imagine living in the desert, eating locusts and wild honey. With such discipline and solitude comes the encounter with the true self and with a merciful God. From this desert air, a voice cries out, “Prepare the Way of the Lord.” Indeed the prophet emerges filled with the presence of God and the courage to preach conversion of heart.

Could this desert-solitude help to prepare our hearts for Christmas?

Finally, imagine reaching down and loosening the sandals of a great and gracious person, one who is prophet and Messiah. John the Baptist declares his unworthiness and steps aside to announce “the one who is coming after me.” This one will baptize with FIRE and the HOLY SPIRIT.

Could humility be the path to acceptance of FIRE and the HOLY SPIRIT this Christmas?

Therefore, the readings of this second Sunday of Advent engage our imagination. The images of stumps, animals, mountains, deserts, locusts, wild honey, water, and sandals all hold a deep meaning for our preparation of Christmas. If we listen with open hearts, we may hear the invitation to the awakening of new life, to unbelievable peace, to harmony among nations, and to solitude and humility that show the way to FIRE and the HOLY SPIRIT. May God bless us with these spiritual gifts.

Closing Prayer

We come, dear God, to prepare our minds, hearts, and lives
for the celebration of Christmas.
Let us imagine profound PEACE.
Let us live in HARMONY and HOPE.
And, in your mercy, fill us with FIRE and the HOLY SPIRIT.

More opportunities to celebrate the season of Advent at St. Norbert Abbey »

Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent 2016

By Fr. Tim Shillcox, O. Praem.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord!

—Isaiah 2:5
Fr. Tim Shillcox, O. Praem.

Fr. Tim Shillcox, O. Praem.

It was Lent (not Advent)—Ash Wednesday Mass at Prémontré High School in Green Bay. I was recruited to help distribute ashes—a smear of a cross on students’ foreheads with the words:

“Turn away from sin and believe the Gospel!”

One young man, Rod, approached—unkempt, surly, and not thrilled to be there. Brushing his “mop” of hair to the side, I earnestly administered the penitential sign:

“Turn away from sin and believe the Gospel!”

He shrugged his shoulders, looked at me with disgust, and whispered, “Yeah, right!” as if to say, “That’s not gonna happen!”

Entering this week, into the 2,000-year stretch of waiting, which is Advent, we hear Isaiah’s cherished prophecy—weapons become garden implements; military science falls from the human curriculum. We may be tempted to stand in bitterness and cynicism with that ash-smeared, young man:

“Yeah, right. That’s not gonna happen!”

Just as Israel’s “wait” for the Messiah was longer than anyone expected at the beginning, so is the Christian Advent which awaits the Second Coming of Christ—the total destruction of death, end of the world, the fulfillment of the Gospel Dream, and the Eternal and Universal Kingdom of Peace and Justice.

Our patience repeatedly “worn out by the journey” (Numbers 21:4), we grumble many times, we throw in the towel, and yield to pessimism, even despair. The flame of faith and hope goes out. “God’s Time” certainly isn’t paying attention to our expectations! And the world is such a mess!

But since “a thousand ages in God’s sight are like an evening gone” (Psalm 90:4), we must do something to keep Hope alive!

Perhaps the right question:

  • Do we really believe that God is faithful? (Psalm 117:2)
  • Do we trust that what the Prophets foretell can happen?
  • Do we really trust that the Gospel can be lived in such a way as to bring about the Kingdom?
  • Is Jesus real?
  • Do we stake our life on Him?

It’s tempting to hedge our bets, including religion—just in case. But Faith defies that logic; Faith demands we take a leap … and let God be in control. Faith isn’t a safety net, but realizing that in Christ, we don’t need a safety net of our own making.

Could it be that we’re the ones holding up the Advent of the Kingdom?  Since “God’s patience is directed toward our salvation” (2 Peter 3:15), is it us who have put roadblocks in the way of justice and peace?

The Advent readings invite us to live as children of the light. That Kingdom light cast upon our words, attitudes, practices, relationships, habits, operating assumptions, and presumptions these Advent days has the power to heal, and reform us more completely in the Kingdom Vision.

The observation that all of our life is Advent is true enough—waiting for Christ to come for fulfillment and take us home.

But annual Advent, beginning with these Scriptures, reminds us of our essential role in that eternal project. It’s just the jumpstart we need, to see things in a different light.

The season invites us to a subtle, yet powerful form of renewal and repentance—taking responsibility for ourselves, walking in the Light of the Lord, and allowing that light to shine the truth on anything that wouldn’t be at home in that Gospel Kingdom.

Maybe WE need to beat OUR swords into plowshares, OUR spears into pruning hooks? Maybe as Aaron Rodgers would say, we need to “get after it”—peace and justice—more earnestly? Maybe we’re the ones holding things up?

It’s not God taking so long.
Perhaps it’s us—the Church, the human family,
having had everything necessary
since the birth, life, death, resurrection, and glorification of Jesus long ago!

May our Advent eagerness, earnestness, and our allowing the Light of Christ to permeate everything we are and do as days grow shorter inspire us to risk full cooperation with God in hastening the Great and Final Day of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Peaceable Kingdom for which we so yearn!


Let us pray:

Come Lord Jesus, Light of the World!
Shine into our minds and hearts, our lives and relationships.
Inspire us anew, by the Gospel Vision;
and compel us by the Holy Spirit to do our part, with You,
in seeing to it that the Gospel Word continues to take flesh and dwell within us and among us!
You are that Word—Jesus Christ–our Lord and our Hope, forever and ever!

More opportunities to celebrate the season of Advent at St. Norbert Abbey »

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