1st Sunday in Advent, Year A
Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
November 27, 2016
It should be apparent that the seasons are changing. Outside it is evident from the snow we got this past week that winter is coming. This is not the season change I want to talk about today.
We just celebrated Thanksgiving. For many, this means travel and a big Thanksgiving meal. While Thanksgiving often happens just before the season change that I want to talk about, they are unrelated.
If you have been shopping lately you’ve seen the Christmas stuff out or maybe you’ve seen some street decorations going up pointing to Christmas.
Christmas is not the season I want to focus on today.
Christmas starts on December 25th. However, Christmas, as the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, is too important to celebrate for just a single day. So, we have a whole season. If you go by what you see in the stores you might think the Christmas season has started. However, for us Christmas does not start until December 25th. From then, it will continue through Epiphany and ends when we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord.
However, Christmas is so important that we don’t have just one season associated with it, we have two, Christmas and Advent.
Advent is wheat what we begin today. Advent is about getting ready for Jesus. No matter what day of the week Christmas falls on, there are always four Sundays of Advent. This means, Advent normally starts around Thanksgiving but not always.
As we get closer to Christmas, our Advent readings will focus on the first coming of Jesus, recalling the time leading up to the birth of Jesus. We are not there yet.
As we begin Advent, our readings point towards the Second Coming of Jesus at the end of time. As we approached the end of the last liturgical year, we heard from Luke’s Gospel about the End Times. As we start the new liturgical year in our church, we hear from Matthew’s Gospel (as we will for most Sundays of the coming year) about the End Times.
Sometimes we don’t want to hear about the End Times because we fear the judgment that comes. As I said a couple of weeks ago, it doesn’t matter when the Second Coming will happen for if we follow Jesus always, we will have nothing to fear.
However, the reality is that we are not always ready. At times we sin. There is always confessions on Saturday. If you read the bulletin, you will find out about some extra times during Advent when I will be in church for confessions.
That being said, there is another way to look at the Second Coming. Instead of focusing on the judgment that comes at the end, I believe we need to turn our attention to what comes after the judgment.
After judgment, all who strive to follow Jesus are welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. When writing to the Romans about the End, Paul says, “For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” He does not say our condemnation is nearer but our salvation.
Paul takes a positive approach. What is a better motivator for you? To think about the negative consequences of our bad actions or to focus on the positive rewards of our good actions.
Think about it this way. How many children (and adults) work extra hard to be good as Christmas gets closer? Why? They try to be good so they will get lots of presents. The presents are seen as something good, something to aspire towards.
The negative motivates us through fear. The positive motivates us through hope. What greater present can we receive than to receive salvation and spend eternity in Heaven?
We know we need to be good to get presents. Ultimately, the giving of presents is meant to be an act of love.
If we focus on hope, then we move ourselves to trust in God’s love. We see God’s love revealed to us when we see Jesus. In Jesus we see hope.