1st Sunday of Advent Reflection by Rachel Espinoza
O come, o come Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear!...
Throughout their history, the Jewish people have endured so many trials and persecutions as a people. We can look at the Scriptures and see that after God called them to be God’s own people, they endured enslavement in Egypt. After God set them free from Pharaoh’s grasp, they wandered 40 years in the desert until they arrived at the Promised Land, where they had to struggle against the peoples dwelling there to establish their own kingdom. They endured a short period of relative peace under the reign of King David and his son, Solomon, only afterwards to see their kingdom split in two and many of their people carried off into captivity and exile, with their homeland eventually becoming occupied territory. And that’s just a summary of what we can read in the Scriptures!
It makes sense then that there would emerge out of this context an expectant, communal longing for a definitive redemption—salvation from all the enemies of Israel—and that this redemption would come via a Messiah, a Savior who would re-establish the kingdom of Israel. Among certain pockets of the Jewish people, this expectation grew in the centuries before Christ’s birth. We find this longing expressed in Scriptural and non-Scriptural texts that have become known as “apocalyptic literature”—passages that prophecy an upheaval of the current order of things and a restoration of God’s reign and rule in our world.
Today’s Gospel is an example of a New Testament apocalyptic text. Jesus says, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world… and then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory… When these things begin to happen … your redemption is at hand.” In essence, Jesus is saying that he is the fulfillment of that longing for a Savior. He is the one whose kingdom brings upheaval to the current order of things and brings the restoration that God desires for this world, that God has made, and that God loves.
Like the Israelites of old, we too can relate to a sense of longing for redemption, for freedom from the injustices and destructive forces in our world. From the tear gassing of immigrant families seeking asylum at our southern border; to the growing inequality between poor and rich, the consequence of an economic system that values profit over human dignity; to a criminal justice system that produces grossly disparate outcomes for citizens depending on their racial backgrounds; and lastly, the environmental degradation and destruction of our beautiful planet due to overconsumption and what Pope Francis has called “a throwaway culture” that values comfort over conservation.
But we don’t only experience a longing for redemption in our wider world. If we’re honest with ourselves, we feel it in our own lives too. Each of us has darkness in our lives that needs the light and healing that Christ brings, whether it be finances, a broken relationship, illness, or some other hardship. We too, long for Jesus’ coming. We too long for the liberation, the freedom, the restoration, the redemption, the salvation that Jesus alone can bring to our broken world, and the brokenness in our own lives.
My hope and prayer this Advent is that we can reconnect with our own need for a Savior. That we can feel in our bones how amazing it is that Jesus came for us—because without His coming, we indeed would have remained in mourning and “lonely exile” as we sing in O come, o come Emmanuel.
In closing, I want to share a song link that I hope can assist you in your prayer this Advent as you reflect on the gift that Jesus’ coming is to our world and to each one of us. A blessed Advent to all!
“In Need of A Savior” by Andrea Thomas, The Vigil Project.