Welcome! Advent is a beautiful season of longing. The days before the Miracle of Christmas are days when the deepest longings of the human soul finally rise to the surface again. They inspire us to direct our attention towards the God of love who sends his Son to save us and set us free. The measure of our Advent longing will be the measure of its Christmas fulfilment. The following daily meditations are taken from the Advent and Christmas sermons of Father Joseph Kentenich, founder of the international Schoenstatt Family, held in Milwaukee, USA from 1962 until 1964. They make up a unique and powerful vision, coming from a deep faith and a well-tested love for the Lord and his Blessed Mother Mary. I have simply taken his witness and brought it together in a series of shorter meditations. The stories, prayers and examples used throughout are also exclusively from his sermons and preaching. At the beginning of each meditation there is a short passage from Holy Scripture that highlights the message of Advent and the growing joy because Christmas approaches. The four weeks of the Advent Season have different themes, starting with the Sundays: Anchored in Hope, our Advent Longing, becoming “Another Jesus”, and Mary, Dawn of Hope. I hope that these daily Advent meditations will keep your longing for God alive as we await his coming. He comes into our lives to the extent that we open the doors wide, clear out all the clutter and debris, and lift up our hands in joyful welcome. I wish you a very blessed Advent with great joy and love. May the Miracle of the Holy Night fill you with awe and a deep inner peace. May your hearts be touched again and again by the God of love. Father Duncan McVicar, Schoenstatt Fathers, Manchester, England
Yes, people of Zion living in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious to you when your cry for help rings out; as soon as he hears it, he will answer you. When the Lord has given you the bread of suffering and the water of distress, he who is your teacher will hide no longer, and you will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your ears will hear these words behind you, ‘This is the way, keep to it,’. (Isaiah 30:19-21)
The deepest and most powerful melody of Advent is hope. Hope is its greatest message. What do we hope for in Advent? Our hope is founded on the faith that God will keep his promises – that God will come to us and save us, that he will bind himself to us for ever, that he will unite himself to us and share his life with us. The letter to the Hebrews uses the unusual image of the “anchor” to characterize hope: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). Naturally there is a big difference between an anchor, in the everyday understanding of the word, and the “anchor of hope”. The ordinary anchor is lowered into the depths of the ocean where it catches hold, but the “anchor of hope” is firmly secured in something infinitely greater than the ocean – it is secured in God himself, in the heart of the living God. We cannot produce Advent hope all by ourselves. It is in essence a gift of the Lord. It is his special grace that he needs to pour into our hearts. We can’t claim Advent hope for ourselves. Through his gift we hope and trust that the Lord’s promises to us will be fulfilled – that includes everything he has promised! What is this “everything”? It is the expectation of the coming of Jesus into our lives. His life will fill our souls to the brim. God’s promise is nothing more and nothing less than Jesus himself. Advent hope is nourished by three things: It is all about longing for the Lord, then trusting in the Lord, and working together with the Lord. First of all, hope instills a profound longing for the Lord. It is a longing for God that has to be greater and more to the forefront of our minds that any other everyday longings. Ultimately it is a longing for salvation, a longing for the Saviour, so that he can enter in our hearts and set us free. It is a longing that God’s promises will be realized in each one of us. Then, secondly, Advent hope consists in an unshakeable trust in the Lord. We trust that we mean so much to him. We trust that the one who awakens this deep thirst in us, will also quench this thirst. We trust that we will be liberated from sin and guilt. We trust in God’s mercy and his endless faithfulness to us, rooted in the power and certainty of his Word. And thirdly, Advent hope is also nourished by working with the Lord. God will never be unfaithful to us – never. But there can be times, and there will be times, when we, for whatever reason, are unfaithful to him. Everything we do should have the Lord at its centre. Everything we do and achieve should happen in loving union with him – with the God who saves, who sanctifies. Simply because we are weak, because we are in need of mercy, we need to be able to count on the Lord. We all do what we can to the best of our ability and possibilities, but then we place our hands into the hand of the Eternal Lord and God. Hope comes to visit us during Advent. We all need this hope in the future. Our own personal happiness depends on it. It doesn’t matter if we are children or teenagers, or if we are due for retirement, we all need the experience that hope gives. Imagine someone who has no hope. Despair would be just around the corner. Couldn’t that be what is meant by the pains of “hell” – existing without any chance or possibility of hope? A New York department store’s advertisement campaign one year after the terrorist attacks of 11th September in New York, USA used the motto: “Hope – the latest craze”. Advent is our special time to hope. It is the time to take stock of the quality of God’s gift of hope in our own lives. Is hope the “anchor” for my soul – firm and secure?