Christmas is ending tonight, but the first reading at Mass today, the feast of the baptism of the Lord comes redolent with intimation of Advent!
‘Console my people, console them’
says your God.
‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem
and call to her
that her time of service is ended,
that her sin is atoned for,
that she has received from the hand of the Lord
double punishment for all her crimes.’
A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness
a way for the Lord.
Make a straight highway for our God
across the desert.
Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low.
Let every cliff become a plain,
and the ridges a valley;
then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all mankind shall see it;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
Go up on a high mountain,
joyful messenger to Zion.
Shout with a loud voice,
joyful messenger to Jerusalem.
Shout without fear,
say to the towns of Judah,
‘Here is your God.’
Here is the Lord coming with power,
his arm subduing all things to him.
The prize of his victory is with him,
his trophies all go before him.
He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
gathering lambs in his arms,
holding them against his breast
and leading to their rest the mother ewes.
It is as though Christmas is to Ordinary time what Old Testament is to New and John the Baptists to Jesus: a precursor to the fullness, a voice speaking in expectation of the Word.
Ordinary time: holidays and feasting (and fasting) are over for a while, and now we return to the regular fray. Here and now especially it is that we learn what difference the advent of good news makes in our life, how we respond to the action of God on our behalf.
Detail of font in St Austell Catholic parish church. (c) 2006, Allen Morris.