Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
The readings talk of anticipating what is hoped for. For Baruch it is the returning of the Israelites to Jerusalem from forced exile. For John the Baptist it is the coming of the Messiah who will redeem the Jews from their oppressors. For Paul it is the second coming of Jesus the Christ.
This seems like a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that we are going to get what we want. The bad news is that there are going to be hardships. Jews in Babylon thrived in many ways. They found that God was with them in spite of being in a foreign land with foreign Gods. They came to appreciate God’s love for them and began to realize that they would return home.
In going home Jerusalem had been destroyed and they rebuilt from devastation. Unfortunately, their freedom was short-lived. They were overtaken by foreign powers and their governmental and religious leaders were co-opted first by the Greeks and then the Romans. Their homeland struggled between keeping their identity and becoming a foreign country. In fighting to keep their identity, they were exploited by their own institutions.
The Jews were fed up with how the world was working; John cries out that things are going to dramatically change. Israel was about to see the salvation of the Lord. Unfortunately, they were expecting to see a General/King who would toss out the Romans, reform the Temple worship, and create the Kingdom of God based in Jerusalem. Instead they got the Son of God, who proclaimed that the “Kingdom of God” was in their midst. The Son of God was crushed by both the Romans and the Temple authorities. A split occurred between the Jews and the followers of the Son of God (Christians). The early Christians discovered the risen Christ in their lives. The Jews lost their homeland for 2000 years.
Paul writes for the early Christians who have experienced the risen Christ, but things are not going well there either. Paul was expecting the imminent return of the Risen Christ who would create the “Kingdom of God” for the whole world to see. That vision has yet to come.
So what do the readings and Advent say to us? First, God is in our midst. Second, we have the love of the risen Christ. Third, hardships will continue to pop up in our lives. Fourth, we have the opportunity to discover the “Kingdom of God” operating in our lives.
Brother Jim Fogarty, BSL