The joy proper to Advent is a clear-eyed joy. Advent calls us to look directly at the world’s brokenness, to see the plight of the hungry, the poor, and the prisoner, and to cry out for the coming of the day of justice and salvation. Listening to the season and the Scriptures (as we have done for the last two weeks), we feel joy creeping in. As we become aware of what the world is not, of what the world ought to be, we begin to rejoice in our knowledge of God: “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will also accomplish it.”
But what is our role? The world is experiencing pain and suffering. God is bending tenderly like a nurse to bind its wounds. What do we do? Our example comes from John the Baptist, who refuses to take to himself an exalted name and the expectations that come with it. To the question, “Who are you, and what have you to say for yourself?” we answer, “I am the voice of hope: the day of the Lord is coming.”
It is our joy to proclaim glad tidings, to heal the broken-hearted, to free those in prison, to baptize the repentant. This is how we tend the garden that Christ, the gardener, has sown with justice, peace, and praise. The seeds were sown in the Incarnation; the harvest is coming, and with it, the fullness of the vision and joy that we now experience only in part.