The Season of Advent has only three full weeks this year. Christmas Eve is on a Sunday and that means that the fourth week is only a short few hours. This reality makes the Gospel message of the last number of weeks powerful- because time is running out. Or, perhaps, through the eyes of faith, “Time is running to God.”
Our Church Calendar gives us a sense of being a little behind. Our First Reading speaks to that reality. Jerusalem is in captivity, far from their holy temple, far from feeling any “comfort” or any sense of being cared for. We hear the Prophet shouting to the alienated what he himself has heard and what God is going to do.
We can easily read into the First Reading an error. It sounds as if we should straighten our roads and level valleys that our Shepherd will be pleased and we will finally be holy. It sounds more like work than comfort.
The Psalm that we pray today places the emphasis on what the Lord always does. So Advent is a time for our coming closer to God and God already being closer to us than we have expected. During these days, we pray to notice how God has drawn close to us- because He has!
The Gospel of Mark contains an opening dramatic presentation. All of the verses of this Gospel are the “Good News” of Jesus’ being the Son of God. More importantly, the Son of God has come to be with us.
The first part of the “Good News” is John the Baptist fulfilling the prophecy of the First Reading. John clarifies so early in his preaching and baptizing that he is not the Son of God, but the one who fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy. There will be “one” who is mightier and He will give a new Baptism. This gift of Baptism will unite the human condition with God, the Creator. Humanity will be re-created. This recreation will be a life-long journey that will straighten out our highways and raise us out of the valleys of darkness.
This new Baptism will be for the recovery of who we really are in God’s eyes: His beloved children. Three weeks and a few hours of one day are all we have left before our celebration of Christmas. To be sure, we also have the rest of our lives to cooperate with the movements of His Spirit. The truth of the season is this: Jesus is not coming; He is here! Our Advent prayer is to recover the images of Jesus in our living and in ourselves.