Advent Meditations 2023


Fourth Advent Sunday | Meditation by Brother David

"Rejoice! The Lord is with you". One day, Mary welcomed these words as a message from God to her through the angel Gabriel. The young woman was troubled by this greeting. But before questioning the angel, she kept silent, reflecting, wondering in her heart what it could mean.
Gabriel says to her: "Do not be afraid". Then he explains to her that she is to give birth to a son, Jesus, who will be great and will reign forever. In her amazement, Mary asks questions, not because she doubts the fulfillment of these words, but asking how it is going to happen. Gabriel explains, telling her that the power of the Most High will take her under its shadow. This image is perhaps reminiscent of the cloud that led God’s people in the desert (Exodus 13:21): it manifests God while veiling him, and expresses a presence that is both near and far, reassuring and disconcerting, offering shelter and at the same time sending them on their way.
Without knowing where this is going to lead her, Mary places herself at the service of the Lord and trusts in his Word. Nine months later, she gives birth to the promised child, far from home, and places him in a manger. The shepherds who are nearby hear the angel say to them: "Do not be afraid; I bring you good news of great joy" (Luke 2:7-10). Some thirty years later, the women heard Jesus himself, risen from the dead, say to them: "Rejoice, do not be afraid" (Matthew 28:9-10).
Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by this Good News. Like Mary, we are called to welcome God and bring him into the world. Let us not waste our time wondering whether it is possible for this call to be fulfilled, but rather let us seek how to make it a reality. In the situation and context in which I find myself, how can I welcome God’s life in me? The Gospel gives us some clues. For example, it helps us to understand that God comes to us through his Word (John 1:9), that we can meet him in the least of Jesus’ brothers and sisters (Matthew 25:40), that he gives himself to us in the sharing of bread (Luke 22:19).
Following this encounter with Gabriel, Mary will leave very quickly (Luke 1:39) to go and support her elderly relative who was expecting a baby. And what about me? Would I like promptly to do something concrete, so as to be consistent with the Word that is announced to me today?
At the end of the story, the angel leaves Mary and she finds herself alone with this call. Even though we are often surrounded by people whom we can welcome as angels sent to us by God, we too can sometimes feel very alone. And all we have to sustain us deep within ourselves is a call beyond our understanding. So, like Mary, let us put ourselves at the Lord’s service and trust in his Word. Let us rejoice today! The Lord is truly in our midst (Zephaniah 3:17). Let us dare to welcome God’s presence within us, so that we can bring it to the world.

Third Advent Sunday | Meditation by Brother Leo

The meeting of John the Baptist with the priests and Levites – which is almost an interrogation – is preceded in today’s Gospel reading by three verses. These verses already reply in a way to the question that the authorities of Jerusalem are going to ask John: Who are you?
John is “sent”, he is a “witness”, “he bears witness”, he is “not the Light but he bears witness to the Light”.
Yes, Jean exists in connection “with”, he is witness “to”. Ah! how difficult it is for us to realize that we are sent, bound to something or someone else. “Just sent???” It is not easy to refuse to claim ownership for ourselves of the origin of our testimony!
But what really is the testimony of John? The expression: “This is the testimony” introduces what is like an interrogation beginning with the question: “Who are you?” The question about John’s identity continues with questions about the legitimacy of what he is doing. What is your authority for doing this?
Haven’t we all sometimes felt the desire to give – or to expect – answers that are clear and straightforward? But John dose not accept the possible identities that are proposed to him: “I am not the Messiah”. “Are you Elijah or one of the other prophets?” And his responses become shorter and shorter: “I am not”, and then: “No.”
And what about us? Do we also need pre-packed answers? Do we have to encircle others or ourselves, wrapping them within a definition based on our own criteria? Or can we accept to let go of ready-made formulas and situate ourselves by reference to Christ, in relationship to him, and to set out and walk on the water?
John does give a reply, which he takes from the Prophet Isaiah: “I am the voice of one who cries in the desert: Make straight the way of the Lord!” His reference is to someone who had come long before him, to words that he had received.
And I would dare to say as well: his reference is to one who is coming, someone whom we do not yet know. And is that not a characteristic of Christ? “You who are beyond all things, what mind can grasp you?...”
John says that he is not worthy; and yet he is a “voice”, and he “bears witness”. May we be enabled in all simplicity voices and witnesses like him, turned towards the one who is coming!

Second Advent Sunday | Meditation by Brother Kombo

At Christmas, the tradition is to offer presents. The present that I suggest you give to Christ this year is a beautiful car – a spiritual car, of course. The car is nearly ready; all that is missing is the wheels. Every Sunday, we are going to add one more wheel.
The first wheel was put in place last Sunday and is called “Take care, and keep awake, for you do not know when the moment will come.” (Mark 13:33). We are going to attach the second wheel today, with the help of the prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist. And the name chosen for this wheel is: “Comfort, comfort my people! – says your God” (Isaiah 40:1).
This is today’s theme: “Comfort, comfort my people! – says your God”.
There is a voice proclaiming: “In the desert, prepare the way for the Lord.” We know that life in the desert is very hard; there is very little water or hardly any at all, hardly any vegetation, very few landmarks. In fact, live hardly exists there. So why spend time and energy wanting to build something there? The meaning of this image is to show us that there is no obstacle which God cannot get over. God is capable of making the impossible possible in the life of a human being.
“Like a shepherd” says Isaiah, “he feeds his flock; he gathers the lambs in his arms; he carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young”. Here we already have the image of the Good Shepherd to which Jesus will refer in chapter 10 of John’s Gospel: the Good Shepherd who really takes care of his sheep.
This is the shepherd who will comfort his people. So we can say: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that with the comfort we ourselves have received from God, we may comfort others in whatever trouble they may be (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
God comforts us so that in our turn we may comfort others. So in the same way that we have received comfort in some difficult situation or other, let us comfort others. Parents, comfort your children in their troubles or distress; children, comfort your parents; brothers and sisters, comfort each other in your distress. It is a huge task. To accomplish this mission, we need strength.
In the Gospel reading today, John the Baptist says to those who came to receive baptism from him for the forgiveness of their sins: “I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Christ gives the Holy Spirit, who will show us the way and give us strength.
This is the second wheel of the car put in place. There are two more still to come. I hope that we will be able to fit all the wheels in place before the 25th of December!

Last updated: 24 December 2023