It is, incredibly, 47 years since my father entered eternal life. When he died my youngest brother and sister were in their infancy. They barely knew him but for the stories they were told. Even so, I was only 22. But what a privilege it has been to have known my dad, to have been loved by him and so well prepared for life. Of course, all my siblings had their struggles, but we have been all the more stronger because our father did what good fathers do. He taught us to look to the future, to make the best of our education and the opportunities that were available to us, to respect and love our family, and to dream about what is possible. He taught us about hope. He took the words of St Paul to heart:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

When Paul wrote to the Romans, he expressly understood that God鈥檚 action in the world, his 鈥榟elp鈥 is a result of the hope they possessed. It is not a passive hope, such as when we can, with some affectation say, 鈥業 hope everything will go well鈥. It is a hope that requires our active participation: I will love you, care for you, feed you and clothe you, visit you and be your companion. That is what hope is. Hope is demanding, we must know what it asks of us.

And so, John Baptist鈥檚 voice in wilderness heralds the coming of the Messiah (Matthew 3:1 鈥 12), Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. It is our responsibility to ensure that we ourselves are ready, and we have prepared what is necessary for the arrival of the Lord. We become ready by familiarising ourselves with the message, being willing and able participants, being alert and aware, using all of our wits. And there are things that must be organised: the community, the reception, the welcome, the acknowledgement, the celebration, the anticipated mission, the difficulties, and trials ahead, the promise and fulfillment. There is no naked hope, it is, like all enterprises, planned.

The story of salvation is not of a flailing humanity before an imperious God. From the moment of our first parents鈥 fall, a plan that brought God and man to the one table to negotiate, to plead and to bargain for redemption was hammered out. God required that active and lived out hope in order for the plan to come to fruition. As Christians it is our belief that Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth enfleshed that hope and thus fulfilled the plan promised by God.

The voice that comes from the wilderness calls us to account for our preparation. We too are invited and called to enflesh that hope in our daily lives, and no more so than in our marriages and in our families. Be present to your family, share your hope and live life to the full.

Advent has begun! Prepare the way of the Lord!

Mr Peter Douglas

Director of Faith and Mission