‘Come, O Come, Emmanuel’: Preaching and prayer for Advent

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and the Book of Isaiah, offer food for our Advent journey, writes Gerald O’Collins SJ.

You don’t have to be an opera fan to love the Italian language, but it helps. As well as being wonderfully musical, Italian enjoys other advantages. One such advantage is having two words for the future: avvenire and futuro. Where futuro and, for that matter, our English word ‘future’ can too readily suggest something growing out of the present, avvenire – like a related word ‘Ad-vent’ – points to the arrival or ‘coming to us’ of something or rather of Someone who is approaching us. Avvenire and Advent create a sense of expectancy and mystery. This season is bringing God near to us. God is coming to enlighten and redeem us.

The Book of Revelation speaks of ‘the Lord God who is and who was and who is to come’ (Rev. 1.8). God is not described here as the One who is and who was and who will be – that is to say, as equally related to the past, the present, and the future. Revelation highlights the ‘Ad-vent’ God, the God ‘who is to come’ and is coming to us out of the mysterious future.

The same Book of Revelation ends with the prayer ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ (22.20). Our future is the great kairos, not mere chronos or clock time that we can measure and control. Advent is a blessed opportunity or gift held out to us by the God who comes to heal us and save us.

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