By Benjamin Straley
The skies take on a different hue of gray, and what little remains of leaves on the trees are a dead brown. Even the sunrises and sunsets take on a different color this time of year. The waning nature of these late autumn days seems to echo the stern and sobering message of the prophets that have marked the Daily Office in the days and weeks leading up to Advent, with Jesus’ own prophetic foretelling of Jerusalem’s desolation in the Gospel readings.
I find the days leading up to Advent strangely liminal ones; for while it appears that, the harvest being gathered in, the earth prepares to lie fallow for a while, it also seems to anticipate something. The prophets, likewise, amidst their warnings of destruction and tribulation, describe a vision of something new that is to come – that God is about to do a new thing.
The first weeks of Advent also exhibit this liminal quality; as we remember and prepare for the festivities marking our Savior’s Incarnation – his first coming – the words of the prophets and of our Lord himself put us in mind of a second coming. And so here we stand on this threshold, looking back and yet looking forward, while standing in the present. What are we to do with this present moment?
I would suggest that in this moment, we, like the prophets and saints of old, fix our gaze upon the One “who is, and was, and is to come,” (Revelation 1.4), and “set our hope on Christ,” (Ephesians 1.12). None of us needs any reminder of the serious divisions and uncertainty that mark the tenor of our national life at this moment. And we as Christians need to be vigilant to injustice, and to be agents of reconciliation, peace, and unity. However, as we engage in the work of the present, I have personally found the events of our national life to be a sobering reminder that it is Christ in whom we must first set our hope, and not any princes or rulers of earth.
In the weeks to come, the stern warning cry of the prophets will give way to one of profound and transcendent hope. It is that hopeful vision of God’s kingdom that we must strive and pray for. In Christ Jesus is our hope, and none other.