Michæl McFarland Campbell

Always telling the story

Archive for December, 2023

God fulfils his promises

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Reflections on Readings for the First Sunday of Advent (Year B). Isaiah 64:1–9; | Psalms 80:1–8, 18–2; | First Corinthians 1:3-9; | Mark 13:24–37;

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God knows the limitations of our human nature very well — after all, he created it. We can only focus our attention — really focus it — on one or two things at a time. We cannot keep everything in mind all at once. On the other hand, we cannot focus our attention on the same thing all the time either. Variety is what we need, otherwise we become depressed.

It is these limitations of our human nature that caused God to inspire the Church to divide the year into different liturgical seasons. The mystery of our salvation includes the whole Bible, the whole life of Christ, and the whole history of the Church. But we cannot possibly keep all of those things in mind all the time.

So we focus on different aspects of them at different times of the year (which has the added benefit of giving variety to our spiritual lives):

  • in Lent we focus on the reality of sin and mercy and the need for repentance;
  • during Easter we focus on the power of God and the Resurrection;
  • during Ordinary Time we focus on the everyday life and teachings of Christ and the wisdom they impart for our everyday lives;
  • and now, during Advent, we focus on God’s faithfulness.

St Paul puts it briefly in today’s Epistle Reading: “God is faithful.”

God did not abandon the human race after original sin. He promised to send a Saviour, and he fulfilled his promise on the very first Christmas.

And God has also promised that this Saviour, Jesus Christ, will come again to bring our earthly exile to its completion, just as in Old Testament times, God brought his Chosen People out of their exile in Babylon, as today’s Old Testament Reading reminded us.

God is faithful; he will fulfil his promises – that’s one of the key themes for Advent.

Multiple symbols in the Advent wreath

candles on a wreath
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Perhaps the most familiar and universal symbol of this beautiful truth is the Advent wreath with its four candles, which Christians have used for over 1000 years.

The wreath’s circular shape gives it no beginning or end — perfectly symbolizing the eternity of God and His love; and the everlasting life Christ wants to give to each of us. Traditional wreaths include evergreen trees reminding us that Christ’s love remains fresh and strong even in the most difficult moments of life. He never abandons us. Many wreaths contain laurel and holly branches. The laurel branch is an ancient symbol of victory, reminding us that on the first Christmas Christ came to bring victory over sin and the Devil. The holly branches are bordered with prickly edges, reminding us of Christ’s Crown of Thorns, and the suffering by which He won His victory over sin and evil.

Christ has promised us all of this, and he wants us to rejoice in these promises, confident that since he is faithful, he can and will fulfil them.

Cleaning out the corners

person standing and holding lamp inside cave
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In today’s Old Testament Reading, Isaiah says,

Lord, you are our Father.

Isaiah 64:8

By reminding us today that God always fulfils his promises, the Church wants to put that same prayer in our hearts.

God is our Father. He is always looking after us, protecting us, and loving us. Unlike our earthly fathers, God’s fatherly love has no limits, no imperfections, and no blind spots. Advent is meant to be a time when we renew our awareness of the perfect Fatherhood of God in our lives, letting His love for us renew our spirits.

The best way to do that is to spend more time with God in prayer during this Advent season. But that will be impossible unless something else happens first. Prayer is a funny thing. Even though we usually do not see God with our physical eyes or hear Him with our physical ears, when we turn our attention to Him, He is really present, and we know it. As we become aware of His presence, we also, almost automatically, become aware of our own sinfulness because God is truth, and His light shines into all the hidden corners of our hearts. If in those corners, we have been hiding some sins which we have not repented of, or some sinful habit we are harbouring, as soon as we try to pray sincerely, they come into view and distract us.

Therefore, if we want to spend more time in prayer this Advent, filling our hearts with the Father’s goodness and wisdom, the first thing we need to do is to clean those dark corners of our lives by confessing our sins to God.

Today, as we begin this sacred season, let us promise that we will let Him clean up our dark corners, so that we can enjoy His presence as we prepare for the great commemoration of Christmas Day.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

December 3rd, 2023 at 8:30 am