Isaiah 40.1-11; Psalm 95.1-3, 10-13 (LXX); Matthew 18.12-14
Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins. (Is. 40.1-2)
Then shall all the trees of the wood
sing for joy… (Ps. 95. 12b)
So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. (Mt. 18.14)
. . .
Advent is a season wrapped in mystery: Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing. The pardon of the Lord comes in person, saying, ‘so it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish’. It is a joyful mystery for a groaning creation, anxiously awaiting the revelation of the children of God, and the wiping away of every tear.
It is a mystery, of course: we celebrate the coming kingdom, in painful awareness that it is as not-yet as it is already. Henri Nouwen offers this reflection on the Father whose will is that none of these little ones should perish:
The father of the prodigal son gives himself totally to the joy that his returning son brings him. I have to learn from that. I have to learn to ‘steal’ all the real joy there is to steal and lift it up for others to see. Yes, I know that not everybody has been converted yet, that there is not yet peace everywhere, that all pain has not yet been taken away, but still, I see people turning and returning home; I hear voices that pray; I notice moments of forgiveness, and I witness many signs of hope. I don’t have to wait until all is well, but I can celebrate every little hint of the Kingdom that is at hand.
This is a real discipline. (The Return of the Prodigal Son, p. 115)
So Advent is a joyous season, but it is also a penitential season. We remember in Advent that it is right always and everywhere to give thanks to God–even the trees remind us always to praise God. Sometimes praise is a discipline, giving thanks when the news is bad, or our friends betray us, or we are sorely disappointed.
And if we do not praise God, the whole of creation will glorify the Lord, so:
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it comtains;
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
Before the Lord, for He is coming…
He will judge the world in righteousness,
And the peoples in his faithfulness.