Jesus Offering Rest in Advent?

In yesterday’s Gospel from Matthew, Jesus invited the crowds,  “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest”?  

I have to confess that when I first read that Gospel passage, I was perplexed.  Why, during Advent, are we listening to Jesus giving this message to the crowds?

True, this line is one that I bring to mind with great frequency; it is one that immediately calms any of my frenetic concerns and allows me to rest in God’s grace.  But I have never thought of this teaching as an Advent one. 

The more I sat with it, however, the more sense it made to me to have us hear and reflect on these words of Jesus during Advent. 

Listening to Jesus’ teaching at this time reminds us that there is a single story that begins with Incarnation and goes through Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, and the coming of the Spirit.  Although Advent reminds us of the longing for a Messiah, so deeply expressed in the Old Testament, for us Jesus’ story has fulfilled this longing and in him our longings and restlessness are fulfilled.

And that means that during our Advent, while we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation, while we prepare to welcome the Christ child anew into our hearts – we do so already in the presence of the spirit of Christ, who has never forgotten his promise to be with us always.  And that spirit of Christ says to us today and every day, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

[I offered this reflection yesterday on the for the Advent Reflection series of the University of St. Thomas Office for Spirituality.]