O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
We pray this antiphon on December 21, the day of the shortest daylight hours of the year. LIGHT is a key theme of Advent as we wait for the Light of the World to return. PEACE and JUSTICE are also key themes of Advent. We think of Christmas as a time of PEACE: warring factions call for peace for one day at least; we wish for blessings of peace in our Christmas cards; and, we sing songs about peace on earth. I wonder sometimes if my desire for peace is merely wishful thinking.
I am reminded of the words of Pope Paul VI: If you want peace, work for justice. What does JUSTICE demand of me? To feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, care for the sick, free the imprisoned. I remember to pray for those who are hungry, homeless, naked, sick, or imprisoned, but I often do not take these demands literally. Sometimes I am frightened by people in need. Too often, I do not even acknowledge them when they cross my path. Sometimes I don’t take action for justice and peace because I don’t believe that the actions of one person can make a dent in the situation. Is it possible during Advent to imagine that each one of us can have an impact wherever our tasks take us? We are called to do what we can with what we have and who we are. When I get anxious and fearful, I need to remember that I have everything I need. I have enough. I am enough. The closer we get to Christmas, the more urgent is this call for justice:
Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice about to be revealed. (Isaiah 56:1)
What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
The readings of the Fourth Sunday of Advent are taken from 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Psalm 89:2-5, 27, 29; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38.
I was with you wherever you went . . . I will make your name like that of the greatest on earth. . . I will assign a place for my people. (2 Samuel 7:9-10)
My mercy is established forever; my faithfulness will stand as long as the heavens. (Psalm 89:3)
. . . to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Romans 16:27)
For nothing will be impossible for God. (Luke 1:37)
Like Mary, we are presented with choices, opportunities, obstacles in this life. We can trust and move forward or refuse and freeze with fear. I think sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that saying yes to God means not having any doubt, not addressing the gnawing questions, but we wouldn’t be human if we could manage that. I don’t think God expects unquestioning agreement. . . God expects faith. . . We don’t have to be perfect. We just have to say yes and trust in God. (“The Challenge of Free Will” by Mary DeTurris Poust, Waiting in Joyful Hope 2017-2018: Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas, Liturgical Press, 2017)
I marvel at how deeply specific [God’s] movement is in our saving history. God sends an angel, but not just any angel: Gabriel. God sends him to Galilee, but not to just any town: Nazareth. Gabriel is sent to a virgin, but not just any young girl: Mary. She’s betrothed, but Luke lingers to mention the man’s name: Joseph. And he’s not just any Joe of Israel, but belongs to the signature house: David. God doesn’t just wave a wand over the world to change the course of history. Some of us keep waiting for that, and some of us may be praying for that. But that’s not how it works. The divine movement is achieved through partnerships with specific actors. Is there something you really want to have happen? Don’t pray for God to do it. Pray that God might use you to achieve some holy purpose. And don’t be afraid to be specific. Judging by the story, that seems to work just fine. (“God Acts in Time” by Alice Camille, Exploring the Sunday Readings, December 2020)
Las Posadas, Spanish for “lodging” or “accommodation,” is a traditional nine-day novena from December 16 to 25 that includes a procession with individuals portraying Mary and Joseph searching for a place to give birth to Jesus. During the novena, believers accompany the couple, walking from door to door each evening until Christmas Eve, when doors open to feasting and welcome. Las Posadas is celebrated in Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, and portions of the Southwestern United States. During the time of this novena, you might explore other seasonal customs from around the globe and learn the traditions of other cultures, races, and nations.
Actions for the Final Days of Advent
Starting with the word “JUSTICE” or “PEACE”, write an action that begins with each letter of the word that you will do in this final week of Advent. Here is an example:
P – Pray the O Antiphons in celebration of these final days of preparation.
E – Embody the work of Jesus today as a teaching, healing, liberating presence.
A – Advocate for world peace in some small way today.
C – Create pathways of peace at home or church today.
E – Extend yourself today to give generously of your resources
May the experience of waiting in stillness, peace, and joy continue long after the Advent Season concludes. May these experiences lead us to advocate for justice.