First Sunday of Advent
Reading I Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
Reading II Thessalonians
Alleluia Psalm 85:8
Gospel Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
In the Scriptures this weekend we hear about the comings of Christ. We hear about the proxy of the birth of Christ and we also hear how we are to prepare ourselves, and to conduct ourselves to receive the Lord. We are also told by Jesus that no one knows the hour or the time the second coming is supposed to occur, that it will assault everyone on earth, we are not to know when it is to occur and that it will take everyone by surprise.
So on this first Sunday in Advent, we hear again that we are to prepare ourselves. Because we are preparing ourselves for the coming of the Lord, we are prepare in three ways:
We prepare for the celebration of his birth in four weeks;
We prepare to receive Jesus and the graces he pours out through his sacraments; particularly the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist;
And yes, we are preparing for the second coming, even if it doesn’t happen within any of our lifetimes we are still preparing for that event.
Advent has been called, traditionally, Little Lent. Often we have lost that concept. And what do we do in preparing for Easter for the resurrection of Christ? Hopefully, we increase in our works of good charities, we increase in our prayer, and if possible we increase in our alms-giving because we are preparing ourselves with the knowledge that Jesus has risen from the dead. But we also have to understand that if Jesus had not taken on flesh we wouldn’t have Easter, certainly we wouldn’t have Christmas, but we wouldn’t have Easter. He had to take on flesh to die and rise again.
The single most earth-shattering event in the history of the universe is when Jesus humbles himself to become man. If we are not preparing ourselves for the celebration of that — the fact that both the Jews in their time were awaiting a long awaiting Savior even though the majority of them did not know or realize what his life was going to be like. Just so, we too are awaiting the second coming. We are preparing ourselves, and that is a phrase I will be using a lot because it is important.
There are some people who argue that there is a “war on Christmas” and I suppose in some ways that is true — whether it is the removal of nativity scenes from some public squares in towns and cities, or whether it is the attempt to try and rename the Christmas tree a holiday tree — and, to some extent these changes are of no consequence. However, if we are not willing to celebrate Christmas in our homes and in our lives, then of course the public, the secular life, is not going to care about Christmas aside from the presents and Christmas music. But the preparing ourselves for Christmas and to win the war of Christmas in our own hearts and in our own homes is to start celebrating when Advent begins. Yes, some of us, including myself, are impatient. Some of us do not want to prepare ourselves for Christmas and we do not want to prepare ourselves for anything because we are comfortable with where we are right now. Well, that is not what Advent is about. That’s not what Christmas is about.
Advent is preparing ourselves so we can be ready for Jesus both when we celebrate his birth, when we receive the Eucharist, and when, whichever happens first, we die, or when the Second Coming occurs. There is only so much we can do in our lives because we have a relatively short lifespan. But we are called throughout our lives to live in relationship with God. We are called to love him and we are called to serve him.
What would it be like if all of us celebrated Advent again? For many of us Christmas would be a more joy-filled time. Because while logistics matter in regard to: whose having Christmas at whose house, how much time do we have to schedule at the in-laws, travel time, and do we have all of our Christmas shopping done? On the surface that is fine. But if we are putting more thought and more effort into buying and preparing presents for each other, if we are putting more time and effort into facing the everyday perils, if we put more time and effort into anything but preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ — then we need to re-evaluate our lives.
Just last weekend we celebrated our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe. For all of our lives Jesus Christ continues to be King of the Universe. Again, he humbles himself.
So this Advent, let us pray for the humility to live like Jesus calls us to. Let us pray for the charity to love our neighbor, and to serve our neighbor. Let us pray for the humility to say, “OK, God. I know you are calling me outside of myself. I know you are calling me to be greater. Help me to live that out. Help me to form my life to you so that this Advent will be a time for preparing myself for continued relationship with you.
And may we all have a blessed Advent.
Father Adam Pritchard is parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, IL.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0021)