The Second Sunday of Advent - Reflection

'For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.’  Romans 15:4

Brothers and sisters, let's begin with a question. What is your ‘North Star’? What is it which guides your life, around which everything else revolves. For my daughter Amelie right now it is her parents. Between us, Natalie and I, guide her life. We tell her when bedtime is. We get her up in the morning. We take her to the table at meal time. And we turn on the taps at bath time. We are Amelie’s ‘North Star’ those which guide her life. What is your ‘North Star’? Perhaps it is a partner. Perhaps it is money. Perhaps it is fame or success. For plenty of people these days, those things become their guiding light, the things around which everything else revolves. For the people of the ancient world, the guiding lights were often, quite literally, the sun, moon, and stars. The sun told them when to get up. The moon told them when it was time to go to bed. So when eclipses took place—when those fixed points disappeared—the ancient world was shaken. No wonder then, when Jesus wants to talk about His Second Coming, when Jesus wants to try and describe the end of the world He likens it to end of the world’s fixed points. Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel (21:25): ‘There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.’ These past two years our world has been shaken. As the pandemic spread around the world, many of our fixed points, many of the things we looked to for guidance have come crashing down. For instance, money and success came to seem less important, and so people moved from their high paid city jobs to living in smaller and more rural communities. The arrival of a disease made us—rightly—question whether our ‘North Stars’—whether our guiding lights—were the right ones. And that is why Advent couldn’t be more timely.

Last week we reminded ourselves that Advent is about of the ‘coming of Christ’. We saw that we are to look back to the first coming of Christ—at Christmas—and forward to the second coming of Christ at the end of the world. And last week, our readings from Scripture urged us to get ready for both In this week’s readings, we find not so much a sense of being prodded, but more a sense of hope, more an offer of guidance. Yes, the tough reality of the Last Day is still there (Luke 21:26): ‘People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' ‘Yes’, says Jesus ‘when the heavenly bodies—when the sun, moon, and stars—when these guidance points of peoples’ lives are shaken, people will quake with terror. We’ve seen that this year. This teaching of Jesus isn’t just for that time in the future, it is for all time, for any time when the things we put our trust in are shaken, when we see them as more transitory and more fragile than we had thought. What causes the fixed points of the ancient world to be shaken, to be knocked out of their prime place? Jesus tells us (Luke 21:27): ‘At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.’ What replaces the sun, moon, and stars as the fixed points in peoples lives? Jesus! Jesus comes to take His rightful place as the ‘North Star’—the fixed point—from which all must find their bearings. That is the opportunity that presents itself during times of crisis. To take a really hard look at the things which we value, the things in which we place our trust, and realise that they are—at best—fragile. And, in that re-calibration, for us to look for something more solid, and more firm, and more trustworthy, and find—in that moment of crisis—the person of Jesus. If He becomes our ‘North Star’, if He becomes our fixed point around which everything else revolves, then we can have confidence for the future, for He will be the fixed point at the end of time. Here is our hope. If we have switched allegiances and placed our trust instead in Jesus, well then Luke 21:28 is for us: ‘When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’ Hope is coming, says Jesus. Redemption is coming, says Jesus. Salvations is coming, says Jesus. And that hope is Jesus Himself. He is the One who will wipe away every tear. He is the One who will do away with suffering. And He is the One who has finally defeated death. Hope is coming and that Hope is Jesus. That is why I pray that whilst Amelie, my daughter, right now looks to her parents as her ‘North Star’ as her ‘guiding light’, that sometime in the not too distant future, Jesus will become her new, and final, fixed point.

As we come to a close, a persistent question may well have arisen in your mind, and most likely arisen in the mind of any switched on child. Amelie might one day say: “I can see the sun, moon, and stars, and Daddy I can see you, but I can’t see Jesus, so how can He possibly guide my life?” And the answer is found at the end of our Gospel reading, v33: ‘[Jesus says] Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”’ Jesus points us to the Scriptures, and says that it is in them, that we will find our way to Him. Read the Scriptures, know the Scriptures, and they will point you to Jesus; they will guide you along a sure and certain path, which leads directly to Him; and in, as our reading from Romans tells us (above), in Him we find Hope. In the past two years the ‘North Stars’ which guide our life have been shaken, and we have seen the fragile nature of so much we have trusted in. But this Advent, look again at the Scriptures, and in them find the true 'North Star’, the true ‘guiding light’ who will never be shaken, and in Him—in Jesus—find your Hope. Amen. (from Fr Mike).