1st Sunday of Advent, Year C
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14 (1b)
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
December 2, 2018
Today begins a new year, a new year in the church that is. Jesus’ Incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas set in motion his public ministry of preaching, teaching, and doing miracles, culminating in his Crucifixion and Resurrection. Since the Incarnation sets all this in motion, it is at this time of year that we begin our new liturgical year in our Church. We will hear predominately from Luke’s Gospel this year.
Yet, it is not the exact date of Christmas that starts our new year. The church calendar gives us a time of preparation to get ourselves ready. Of course, the season we begin today is Advent, noted by the violet vestments and banners.
Advent always has four Sundays. It is a time of waiting. Secular society rushes to Christmas. Christmas decorations outside are already up in many places but we know it is not Christmas yet. We need to get ready. We need to prepare.
Advent is a time of preparation for our celebration of the first coming of Jesus when he was born of the Virgin Mary, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.
Our first reading from Jeremiah is a prophesy about the first coming of Jesus. It is a reminder to the Jews of God’s promise to send a messiah as a “just shoot” from David. Thinking of the first coming of Jesus fills us with hope. We need this hope. The hope Jesus offers is offered to us everyday but Christmas really brings it alive for us. We see it in how the attendance at our Christmas Masses often doubles that of a normal Sunday.
As Advent is a time of preparation to celebrate Christmas, it is also a time to prepare ourselves for the Second Coming. Our gospel reading speaks of the Second Coming of Jesus. Jesus tells us that “People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world.” These images might seem scary but our fear of the Second Coming can also be rooted in the fact that we are not ready.
We don’t always stay vigilant. When Jesus speaks, “do not become drowsy,” he is not speaking simply of physical tiredness. He is speaking of growing weak in following his way and to not be consumed by “the anxieties of daily life.” We need to “be vigilant at all times.”
We know this but we don’t always do it. When we fall short, how often do we tell ourselves there is always tomorrow? We have seen many tomorrows but when the Second Coming happens, there will be no tomorrows left in this world.
We need to change, we need the Lord to make us “increase and abound in love.” So, in our opening prayer, we ask that the Lord grant us “the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ.”
In our psalm today, we hear repeated requests to the Lord to teach us and guide us, to show “sinners the way.” We are sinners. The only way we are going to change is to listen to the Lord. So, in our responsorial verse, we cry out “To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.”
In his teaching and preaching, Jesus helps us understand the Lord’s ways, to help us understand that the Commandments are not just rules but a way of life that is good for us.
Jesus’ teaching is a great aid to us. The Holy Spirit is vital to our following Jesus yet we know we remain sinners. We try to “be vigilant at all times” but we remain weak.
Soon, we celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus. As I already said, this gives us hope. The birth of any baby can bring joy but the birth of Jesus brings us an everlasting joy. In becoming incarnate, Jesus unites himself to us. We have a high priest who knows what it is like to suffer. Most of all, we have a savior who died so that our sins might be forgiven and he shows us the way to eternal life.