At a time when Israel was in exile and Jerusalem was a desolate wasteland as a consequence of the Babylonian siege and conquest, God sent the Prophet Baruch to prophesy a message of hope to the people of Israel on the brink of national despair. They sadly watched Jerusalem under siege, conquered and destroyed with its inhabitants taken as captives into exile and the remnants left in a city that had lost all its former glory. Baruch spoke words of comfort and hope, as well as a promise of restoration to personified Jerusalem and its inhabitants. The prophet urged Jerusalem to discard her garments of grief, replacing them with the splendor of glory from God, for its exiled children shall return at the Word of the Holy One. They were led away from Jerusalem on foot. God shall return them borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones.
This message of hope must have resonated with the Israelites in Baruch’s millieu, as it should resonate with us, because our universal condition is becoming increasingly similar to theirs. Our world is in a spiritual and moral exile. We have compromised universal conscience: our sense of justice is corrupted, kindness is waning, humanity has replaced peace with hate. In addition, we seem to be trying very hard to take Christ out of Christmas. For every devout person of faith, the feeling of dissatisfaction and helplessness is palpable.
God speaks to assure us of the imminent advent of Christ, and with him the nearness of our redemption. A redemption that we cannot appropriate to ourselves if we do not heed the prophecy of Baruch and the cry of John the Baptist for us to prepare. Adequate preparation would require us to make straight the paths of love, filling the valleys of malice and envy with forgiveness and empathy, and leveling the mountains and hills of hate, indifference and doubt with Christ-like charity, genuine concern for our neighbor’s well being, and unshakable faith in God’s benevolence. We should be able to do this without taking our eyes off the ultimate price which is life with Jesus when he comes again in glory. Only then shall we be ready to welcome Him as we celebrate His birthday and ultimately welcome Him when He comes again.
May we be granted grace to prepare well for a new encounter with Jesus at Christmas as we stay ready for His second coming. May the love of Christ which we all carry in our hearts tear down all barriers of hate and pride and restore love and peace to our hearts and community.
Please be kind and may God bless you.