In his book, The Lord, Monsignor Romano Guardini writes that when Christ came to earth, salvation was at hand. Christ arrived, meek as a newborn, offering himself to humanity, full of hope and promise, love and humility. Then, Guardini says, God gave humanity the freedom to accept Christ or not.
The offer was rejected. In obedience to the will of the Father, Christ rendered our salvation by dying on the cross.
Guardini asks us to consider a what if. What if humanity had made a different choice? Isaiah had seen that possibility. Peace would have broken out everywhere. All nations would have put God in first place, on the highest mountain of earthly priorities. Humans would have stopped warring over a finite supply of power, prestige, or wealth. Instead, all would have shared in the infinite, ever renewing abundance of God’s goodness. The swords would have turned into ploughshares. The spears would have turned into pruning hooks. We would have been living the way God intended us to live. In his light.
In his Paschal sacrifice, Christ undertook the definitive act of reconciliation and salvation. But it was in his birth and life—just as much as his death and Resurrection—that Christ communicated God’s hope for this world. Although the Kingdom of God will not be fulfilled until Christ returns, His incarnation initiated that Kingdom. On the first Sunday of Advent, New Year’s Day in the Catholic church, the promise of the life of Christ stirs anew. We prepare to celebrate the day that Christ broke into human history. We resolve to welcome him in the manner he deserves. On the first Sunday of Advent we also hear Christ’s plea to his disciples to be ever ready for his return on the Day of Judgment. His arrival will be unexpected. The world will be absorbed in its daily routine. What if? Will he find our hearts oriented to him? Or will possibility be missed again?