A Reflection for 1st Sunday of Advent (Year C).
Jeremiah 33:14-16 – 1Thessalonians 3:12-4:2 – Luke 21:25-28, 34-36.
Dear brothers and sisters, this Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, and so we embark upon a new liturgical year. During the season of Advent, we prepare ourselves for the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ at Christmas. Advent not only prepares us for the First Coming of the Lord in human flesh, but also helps us to get ourselves ready for the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ at the end of time (Mt 23:39; Lk 18:8; Jn 14:18).
We have started counting down the days to Christmas. The Christmas lights shine and glitter in the dark streets at night, and in some homes the Christmas tree has already been put up. The sense of anticipation of the coming feast of Christmas is now in the air. But it isn’t Christmas yet. The secular world is busy celebrating with office parties, get-togethers for drinks and party food, and putting up external decorations, but the Church is calling us to undertake some internal decoration, as in “home decorating” – to “give ourselves a freshen up”! And what kind of decoration has the Church in mind? The freshening-up and beautification of our spirit and our soul.
Our Lord Jesus told His disciples in today’s Gospel to watch yourselves (v.34). Then He added, Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man (v.36). The Advent season is a serious time for Christians, not so much to party as to keep watch in various ways to prepare properly for Christ’s coming. It is a period during which we are urged to make more progress in living the life of holiness in preparation for the Advent of the Lord. Jesus urged us not to let our hearts be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life (v.34). Of course, these qualifications are with regard to the state of our spirit and our soul: our inner being should not be flabby or coarse or in disorientated. Let’s ask ourselves: What preparations are we making to put into practice what Jesus has in mind?
Jesus said to watch yourselves. From that it is clear that He wants us to do something practical in order to prepare ourselves spiritually for Him. So, yes, of course it’s fine to be decorating material things in readiness for Christmas, but what Jesus wants us to prioritise is the decorating of our souls in readiness for Him. He is coming to stay in our hearts. The journey of each and every human life leads to the destination of Jesus’ Second Coming, which we view through the mirror of His First Coming at Christmas.
And how, exactly, should we go about decorating our soul and our spirit? We should prepare ourselves with deep prayer, use of the Sacraments, personal penance, expressions of spiritual joy, works of mercy and concentration upon boosting our holiness of life. Thus, St Paul in the 2nd Reading appeals to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live. The RSV version puts it like this: we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to
please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more.
Two years ago it was my privilege to watch Christmas dramas being performed by the ‘Stagestars’ stage school in Keith. One of the plays featured the characters of Santa Claus and the Elves preparing gifts for the children. The characters were adding extras for those who had proved themselves worthy throughout the year of receiving presents from Santa. That is a picture of what God does for us when we get ourselves ready for Him. His special gifts are reserved for those who have taken care to prepare themselves both exteriorly and interiorly while waiting on Him.
In the 1st Reading, Jeremiah quoted the Lord as follows, See, the days are coming when I am going to fulfil the promise I made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah (v.14). That promise is the delivery of the Christmas present He, the Lord, has got for you and for me.
So, this Advent, let us get ready ourselves for His Coming by purposefully deepening our relationship with Him, by meditating on His infinite love for us, upon that infinite and everlasting love which He demonstrated by giving us His only Son (Jn 3:16). At the core of the Christmas celebrations lies this truth: For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (Jn 3:17). Let us respond by showing Jesus how much we love Him who is Himself Love (1Jn 4:16). Let us love Him in the Sacraments, let us be watchful in prayer, and let us serve Him in the needy and the neglected around us. Amen. God bless you.