For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Scripture: Isaiah 9:1-7
Advent was established as a part of the liturgical calendar late in the 4th century A.D. in response to the gnostic Priscillian movement. At this time, it was used as a season of fasting in preparation for Epiphany much like Lent is for Easter. By the 8th century A.D., a consensus for when Christmas should be celebrated was made and the focus of Advent shifted to a time to commemorate the Israelites awaiting the coming of Emmanuel.
The birth of Christ marks two eras in history. The author of Hebrews refers to these periods as long ago and the last days. Isaiah alludes to this concept describing the former time and the latter time. During the first era God was expressed through intermediaries such as, Moses and the prophets. The arrival of Emmanuel, “God with us,” marked the beginning of a new era where God is expressed directly through the incarnation. For modern Christians, Advent has a dual focus. We reflect on the time, long ago, when the Israelites were awaiting the arrival of Emmanuel. We also live in expectancy of God’s coming reign.
The ancient Israelites experienced times of chaos and instability. Isaiah describes these experiences as walking in darkness or dwelling in a land of deep darkness. The promise of light in Isaiah 9 comes in a child that is destined to live opposed to governing systems of oppression. Isaiah writes, “and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The promise of God’s peace is a kingdom that endures from now until eternity. The kingdom is sealed with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Advent accentuates the duality of the Christian life, experiencing the gospel of Christ while waiting for the totality of God’s kingdom.
The question for the modern Christian becomes how we should wait. Life is hectic and stressful, especially, in a time of pandemic and political polarization. Anxiety can be compounded by the pressures of secular society to focus on materialism during the holiday season, but we are called to be disciplined and focused on God.
Father Alfred Delp, while awaiting execution for his participation in the German Resistance, wrote, “Woe to any age in which the voice crying in the wilderness can no longer be heard because the noises of everyday life drown it, or restrictions forbid it, or it is lost in the hurry and turmoil of ‘progress’ or simply stifled by authority, misled by fear.”
During this time of Advent let us take time to reflect on awaiting Emmanuel as well as how we can contribute to the establishment of God’s everlasting reign.
James M. Carter
Core Idea: God’s reign is abounding in steadfast love!