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"It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." (Romans 13:11)

Today, the first Sunday of Advent, the Church begins a new Liturgical Year, a new journey of faith that on the one hand commemorates the coming of Jesus and, on the other, opens us up to the Lord's ultimate fulfillment.

It is precisely in this double perspective that the Church participates in the Season of Advent, looking both to the first coming of the Son of God, when he was born of the Virgin Mary, and to his glorious return--which will happen both at the end of time, but also every day of our lives.

The Season of Advent is highlighted by the theme of expectation and waiting. Expectation is a thoroughly human experience and flows through the entirety of our lives. We wait for a child to be born. We wait for a friend to visit. We wait to hear the outcome of a job interview. We wait to meet the man or woman whom we will marry.

Humans are alive as long as we wait and as long as we hope.
 
In this sacred season in which we prepare for Christmas, each one of us can ask: what am I waiting for? What, at this moment of my life, does my heart long for?

So too can our families, our communities and our nation ask similar questions: what are we waiting for together? What unites our aspirations and bring us together?

As highlighted in today's first reading from the prophet Isaiah, in the time before Jesus's birth, the expectation of the Messiah was very strong in Israel. The people expected a hero who would at last set the people free from every form of moral and political slavery. They expected someone who would "beat spears and swords into plowshares and pruning hooks" and end the scandal of war.

This was the dream and the promise that God put in Isaiah's heart. God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfills them.

The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place. He was born to be the Savior of all people throughout the world and throughout history.

And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military campaign. Instead Jesus destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross.

And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the cultural and political centers of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God.

No one would ever have imagined that the Messiah could be born of a humble girl like Mary, the betrothed of a good and faithful man, Joseph. Nor would she herself have ever thought of it, and yet in her heart the expectation of the Savior was so great, her faith and hope were so firm, that he was able to find in her a worthy and holy mother.

Today's Readings 

Musical Reflection

The Dream Isaiah Saw (Glenn Rudolph)

Lions and oxen will sleep in the hay, 
leopards will join with the lambs as they play, 
wolves will be pastured with cows in the glade, 
blood will not darken the earth that God made.

Little child whose bed is straw, 
take new lodgings in my heart. 
Bring the dream Isaiah saw: 
life redeemed from fang and claw.

Peace will pervade more than forest and field: 
God will transfigure the Violence concealed 
deep in the heart and in systems of gain, 
ripe for the judgement the Lord will ordain.

Little child whose bed is straw, 
take new lodgings in my heart. 
Bring the dream Isaiah saw: 
justice purifying law.

Nature reordered to match God's intent, 
nations obeying the call to repent, 
all of creation completely restored, 
filled with the knowledge and love of the Lord.