|The Tree of Jesse (Chartres Cathedral)|
Advent is not a sad season. It is not Lent! Notice that 'Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit', according to today's Gospel reading from St Luke. Our Lord is happy on account of the Father’s graciousness. The Father has given everything to the Son (cf. Lk. 10:22). Nothing belongs to the Father that does not equally belong to the Son. And the gracious God now wants to share his infinite love with us, too. The disciples are blessed (v.23) because they see and hear Jesus; and more importantly, they are with him. They know that something new, something awesome, is happening in their very midst. It is Jesus, Immanuel, who is ‘God-with-us’ (cf. Is. 7-8).
This new thing is exactly what Isaiah had announced. In chapter 11, the prophet speaks of a new king in the line of David (the ‘root of Jesse’, vv. 2,10). ‘See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?’ (Is. 43:19) The budding root will bring a new order of things, in which ‘justice shall flourish...and fullness of peace forever’ (Ps. 72). No doubt it will start very small. So small that only the humble and pure of heart – those who are truly ‘childlike’ (Lk. 10:21) – will perceive it.
So let us rejoice too! The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jesus, the only-begotten Son of the Father, and he has given that same Spirit to us. Isaiah enumerated what we now understand to be the seven ‘Gifts of the Holy Spirit’, with which every confirmed Christian is strengthened: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. In that same Spirit, we can rejoice in Advent. Let’s be attentive today to all the little signs around us of God working new and wonderful things. There may not be many budding shoots in the garden for those of us in wintry climes, but we can wait in hope. When the little baby arrives, let us be prepared to see in him the ‘sign for the nations’ (Is. 11:10) that God is truly with us.