During this darkest time of the year we turn to the light. In homes and businesses and city streets, when lights are lit, we are reassured. In our churches we light candles on the Advent Wreath, adding an additional light each week to symbolize our certainty that soon the days will begin to lengthen and the light will return. These small lights are like the poetry of Isaiah, written during a dark time in the kingdom of Judah. Every Sunday in Advent we read Isaiah's words because they mirror our hope for the justice, peace, and harmony that only God can bring about in our world. We await the birth of a child who will be called Emmanuel, "God with us." We await the new day that child brings to our distressed and despoiled earth.
In his day John the Baptist was "a voice of one crying out in the wilderness." In our day we have the example of Pope Francis, who calls our attention to the plight of the poor, to our own need for hope, and to the ruin inflicted upon the Earth itself. Indeed, the Pope reminds us, "The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together." As Mary and Joseph cared for and protected the Christ Child, we can follow their example and care for our world, seeing Christ in the poor and present in all things. Indeed, Pope Francis eloquently affirms that presence in every living creature and that respect for nature is part of authentic Christian spirituality. This Advent let us open our eyes and ears to the ways in which God comes to us each day.