posted on December 02, 2012 15:44
Homily: Deacon Terry Ellerman
Blessed Sacrament Parish
December 2, 2012 - First Sunday of Advent
10 AM Service
Starting a little before Thanksgiving, as we go around town, we see all the shining lights. We see the Christmas trees being put up, we hear the Christmas music playing, and when we go home we see the Christmas stories on TV. But when you come in the church, other than the Giving Tree in the Gathering Area, you don't see the glitter of the Christmas trees and the lights. What you see is the Advent purple. You see the Advent wreath.
Yes, we are in a spirit of joy, of anticipation. But it's not here yet. We're here to look at ourselves and be welcoming to the Christ who is coming into our life.
In our first reading today from the book of the prophet, Jeremiah, this reading is a reading of hope because the Israelites are anticipating and waiting for a Messiah to come into their world from the shoot of Jesse, and from the lineage of David. In our readings today it is that Messiah Jesus that we anticipate in four weeks at Christmastime.
But then we have our Gospel reading from Luke. And Luke's reading is very similar to Mark's that we heard a couple of weeks ago. And we hear about the end of time when the sun will dim and the moon will no longer shine and the stars will fall from the sky. There will be earthquakes. Nations against nations, people against people.
Why do we have that reading today? We have the reading today because it is the first day in Advent. It is the first day of the Liturgical year, so I need to wish you all a Happy New Year because this truly is our New Year. It is also a time to look at our relationship with God, and with one another, and make resolutions that we will prepare not just for the birth of Christ, but for the coming of Christ - because the coming of Christ will come when we die and as our Gospel said, “He will come at the end of the world.”
Now which will come first: our death, or the end of the world? Who knows? Advent is a time for preparing for Christ's coming, for remembering his birthday at Christmas, but also for being prepared now, and always, for the return of Christ, and when we meet him.
We have good and bad in our world. We have light and we have darkness. Meg is going to be baptized this morning. She is going to receive the light of Christ and it's that light that the parents and godparents, and we as a Christian community, need to keep burning brightly for her. Because of that light of Christ during Advent we need to keep asking ourselves, “Are we Christ to the world,” which means, what is our relationship to God? And what is our relationship to one another?
In our relationship to God, what is that relationship? Do we pray? Do we feel close to him? Do we receive the sacraments? What can we do to make the relationship even better?
How about each other? What is our relationship to one another? Do we look out after each other? You know it's very easy for us to look at the Ten Commandments and say, “We need to follow the Ten Commandments: “Thou shall not steal, thou shall not murder, thou shall not, thou shall
not …” and yes, we shouldn't do those things. But the great commandment is “love God and love your neighbor” so we need to ask, “What do we need to do more?” And Advent is a time for us to look at ourselves and ask that question, “What more do I need to do?”
There is a story about five individuals that happened years and years ago.
It could be true, or maybe it's not, but let's say it is true. These five people were stranded and they went into this cave. It happened to be a frigid night, a freezing night. There was a log there on a fire that was about to go out. And there was no other wood except each person had one log.
However, during that night none of those five people were willing to give up their log because of a prejudice they had in their life. The homeless man didn't put his log on the fire because there was a rich man there. And the rich man who wouldn't put his log on the fire thought, “After all, why should I furnish heat for a homeless person who should be working?”
There was Jew who did not put his log on the fire because there was a Muslim there, and the Muslim didn't put his log on the fire because there was a Jew there. There was a woman who wouldn't put her log on the dying fire because there were four other men there and she thought, “Well, you know how men are!”
The next morning they were all found dead, scattered around with their logs in their hands. And the headline above the newspaper article read, “All Five Die In The Cold.” But they died not from the cold from without, but from the cold from within.
We all, I think, have our own little logs. We need to look at ourselves this season and ask, “What are my logs? What are those prejudices, what are those things within me that keep me from truly loving one another and taking care of one another?”
So Advent is the time of getting ready and preparing - preparing for Christ coming into our world at Christmas, but also preparing for Christ when we die - whether it be tomorrow or a hundred years from now.
So what can you do? I already said that we need to look at our relationship with God and see what we can do to strengthen it. There are a lot of simple things that we can do.
One is being watchful of God in our world and the wonderful things that he does.
The other is to be watchful of the things that we, through our light of Christ and Christ being in us, that we give to one another. Taking an ornament off the Giving Tree and bringing back a gift is one way. Being aware of that neighbor who has no relatives or friends who would appreciate being invited to Christmas dinner, or neighbors who might like a meal brought to them.
Or we may know someone who is lonely who needs a call, or maybe it is one of us who is the lonely one who can reach out to someone else - and this is sometimes harder than giving.
Here are some other ways:
Tell the ones you love that you do love them.
Rediscover old friends.
Make new ones.
Buy some flowers.
Keep a promise.
Hug a child.
See a sunrise.
Listen to the rain.
Make some mistakes, and learn from them.
Explore the unknown.
Celebrate your own life.
Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
The Chinese proverb says, “ The way to move a mountain is by beginning to carry small stones.”
As we celebrate the first week of Advent, let us continue to make small changes which bring us closer to God - and each other.
Terry Ellerman is a retired educator and serves as a deacon at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois.