Last Sunday in our Advent preparation for Christmas, we looked first at the end of our journey to help us focus our minds more clearly on the meaning of Christmas and the meaning of God coming to live among us as one of us.

In the 2nd part of the first reading (6-9), Isaiah describes a perfect society. All hatreds and hostilities have disappeared, those who hated and killed each other are now sitting side by side, the lion and the leopard lie down with the lamb, the child plays with poisonous snake. In our human family, nobody is doing any harm, the poor and the weak are no longer oppressed by injustice, and all are harboring love. Isaiah wanted to assure his people that the Lord would establish peace in the world, the peace that reigned in Eden before the sin of Adam.

This theme of Isaiah is permeated in the Christmas carol It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, a Christmas Carol that mentions neither Christmas nor the Christ Child, but the first three verses highlight the struggles of society that cause us not to hear the choir of angels and their song of jubilation. The song ends with a final verse where society has quieted enough to sing that song back to the angels.

When is this prophecy going to be fulfilled? We find the answer in the first part of the reading (1-5) where an image presents the family of David as a large tree: Jesse and David are like the roots and trunk; the other kings born from them are its branches and shoot. God had promised this family an eternal kingdom, but he would one day be forced to cut down this tree, because of unfaithfulness. Nevertheless, a new shoot will rise from the root, a great king who will possess the best qualities of all the members of this family of his. He will be wise and intelligent, strong and powerful. Isaiah spoke of Hope to the people.

To welcome him and see in him the realization of everyone’s hopes and dreams, John the Baptist says: We must Repent: – that means we are to have a change of heart. We need to fill in the potholes in our lives and amend the rough roads.

Paul set before us some practical consequences of listening to scripture in the second reading. He says, we must live together in harmony, striving to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treats us, He recommended to all to be charitable, to show respect and love. He takes example from the Lord: Jesus did not seek to please Himself but placed himself at the service of others.

Taken together the three readings remind us of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. A group of pilgrims traveling to Canterbury Cathedral compete in a storytelling contest. Some characters were quite unpleasant, but they were part of the group. Many of the people to whom Jesus ministered were quite unpleasant, but this did not deter him. His example is set before us today. All have been called to sing praise to God’s name. They are invited to join us; we are invited to join them.