Jeremiah 33: 14 – 16; 1 Thessalonians 3: 12 – 4:2; Luke 21: 25 – 28, 34 – 36
In the Gospel for this Sunday Jesus speaks about the signs in the sky and our need to be attentive, vigilant and strong. This is the Frist Sunday of Advent, shouldn’t we have a Gospel that reminds us of the birth of Jesus and gets us in the mood to want to put up our manger scenes, listen to Christmas carols (even though Christmas is almost four weeks away), and think of the Baby Jesus? Yes and no, Advent is meant to have us remember all that led up to the first coming Jesus, and also to keep us mindful that there will be a second coming of Jesus. With these reminders of what God has done, and what God will do, we are placed within the context of God’s actions and presence.
The Nicene Creed lists the Actions of God; Creator of heaven and earth, the conception and birth of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Jesus by which our sins are forgiven, Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead, the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, and the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. This brief list of the actions of God shows us very clearly the presence of God. God has been with us from the day he created the world, God will be with us until the end of the world and then for all eternity. God, is with us. One of the titles given to Jesus is, Immanuel, which means God is with us. The readings today remind us that God is with us.
Our preparing to celebrate Christmas is not just a remembering that God was with us, but a reminder that God is with us. Scriptural accounts of the second coming are not just warnings that we should look busy because God is coming, but that God is with us now. During these four weeks of Advent we are called by the church to take this time to reflect and pray about how we acknowledge the presence of God in the world and in our lives, and how we can become more aware of embracing God by being more attentive to His presence and molding our lives around him so that he is the center of our lives.
Here are three suggestions of how this can be done. 1. Celebrate Advent as a time of preparation for Christmas. Don’t get caught up in the Christmas Season that the world has been marketing since late September. Hold off until the evening of December 24th to begin the celebration of Christmas. That is when we, as Church begin the Christmas Season. This first suggestion is probably the most difficult, but if you focus on it you will become more mindful of Advent as its’ own season, and thus why Christ was born, and better appreciate the Feast and Season of Christmas. 2. Listen attentively to the words of the Advent Hymns we sing and make the words your prayer. Notice that these hymns are not celebrating Christmas, but are hymns of preparation. 3. We are surrounded these weeks by the “Christmas Spirit of Giving.” Change your personal focus from Giving as being a Christmas Gift, to giving as part of your and the recipients’ observance of Advent. Ask yourself how is my spirit of giving helping me to better prepare for Christmas?
This year Christmas falls on the Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent. This gives us close to four full weeks of Advent. Let us take advantage of the Advent Season and better prepare for the celebration of Christmas.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.