Readings: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25; 1 Thessalonians 3:12 - 4:2; Luke 21:25-28,34-36
We are offered contrasting images at the beginning of Advent which capture contrasting experiences of time. The circular Advent wreath says something about time turning and the cycle of the year but the scripture readings, mostly from the prophets, speak of time in a linear way, what happened in the past, where we are now, and what we look forward to in a promised future. Each seems 'natural': the year turns around, here we are again preparing for Christmas, but we are also each of us a year older than last year and this cannot be reversed. The sacrament of reconciliation does offer us the possibility of 'returning to the beginning', shaking off the dross we have picked up and starting afresh.
We are a pilgrim people who are building a city. Here is another Advent contrast worth meditating on. We are on our way to somewhere else, another future, and yet we are here and we have work to do here and now. We must build something here, among ourselves, in the commitments and relationships that we have. Jeremiah says that Jerusalem will be called 'the Lord our integrity'. There are cities named like this even in the modern world: Philadelphia (brotherly love), Los Angeles (the angels), Dar Es Salaam (haven of peace). The city we are building is the Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God, God's Holy People.
Sometimes people suggest that if Christian faith orientates us towards a future kingdom that we will somehow be less engaged and involved in this passing world. Experience shows that the opposite is the case: the Christian hope of future glory has always strengthened people in their commitment to the here and now, the dignity and needs of those whose lives we share, the importance of building a city of peace and justice even as we travel towards a city that will abide.