The world needs Advent this year like no other. Advent is the time when expectations are high. The Scriptural readings are full of imagery of extraordinary things happening. This week we listen to the rarely heard Prophet Baruch. The text is calling Jerusalem to take off her ‘dress of sorrow and distress’ and ‘put on the beauty of the glory of God forever’. The text also reminds us that it is God who brings transforming gifts to us. We should let go of our self-doubt and feelings of insecurity. We should stop worrying that we are not good enough or that we may not have the right words to say. We leave behind our past failings and hurts. This is the time to let God visit us and bring us new hope, new growth and new things for us to do.
God will give you a new name, the prophet Baruch tells us. From now on you will be known as ‘Peace through integrity’ and ‘honour through devotedness.’ Peace, we know is the work of justice and integrity. Lasting peace cannot be brought about without justice. While the earth and its people cry out for healing the just cannot rest. While women flee violence, while oppressive regimes slaughter the innocent, while the earth is exploited to the detriment of human communities the just cannot rest. So when the Lord visits us and tells us that our name will be ‘peace through integrity’ we are being given a great gift. And we are also being called to a great task. Advent is the call to peace.
We will also be known by the name ‘honour through devotedness’. Honour is about being held in high esteem or respect but it has another meaning too. Honour is also the quality of knowing and doing what is right. (I must honour my word). The person of honour is devoted to seeking a way to put things right. To put things right in my own life and relationships, to put things right in my community, to put things right in our world. In Advent, God visits us and puts us right before God. This great gift is also a task for us. The task is an invitation to put things right in our world. Advent is the call to put things right.
This twin gift of ‘peace through integrity’ and ‘honour through devotedness’ is offered to all. Our task to open our hearts to receive it. Then let us let the spirit set our hearts on fire!