Advent is a season reminiscent of the past, the present and and the future. The Old Testament readings for the Second Sunday of Advent (Baruch 5:1-9; or Malachi3:1-4) have the Babylonian Exile as the background. In the midst of this heart-wrenching and humiliating experience, both Baruch – Jeremiah’s secretary – and the prophet Malachi, bring a message of comfort, hope and redemption.
“Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God”,
Baruch proclaimed. “Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem (crown) of the glory of the Everlasting”. This was a message of comfort for people sorrowful with affliction and humiliation of conquest and exile. It was also a message of hope of redemption in their lifetime
Whether the people believed Baruch and his message or not is another story. Indeed, a reading through Jeremiah 31 and 32 reveals more of a sense of disbelief than whole-hearted embrace of the message. Nevertheless, the message was about the Lord’s doing – the Everlasting crowning with glory those who were afflicted.
It was a message to Jerusalem – the people of Judah – that God had remembered those who were carried off to exile. “They went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne”. This is about the Lord, not so much about the people; it is the Eternal’s doing.
Looking back, we see that this came to pass, whether the people believed it or not. The exile ended when the Persian king, Cyrus, allowed the captives to return to Judah. In retrospect, Baruch’s words make sense to us today, and sometimes we may even feel sorry for the people of Judah who might not have believed Baruch and Jeremiah.
That is the advantage of retrospect: We have it, they did not. Furthermore, Advent is also about us in the present. Do we fare any better?
Find out next.