Wednesday, November 25, 2015

1st Sunday of Advent

When we celebrate the secular New Year, we like to reminisce about the past year while looking anxiously ahead to the year ahead.  With this first Sunday of Advent the Church rings in the new year in much the same way... remembering how God promised to send us a Savior and the memory of that fulfillment through Jesus Christ, and looking forward to the time when Christ will return.

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

Our first reading comes from the book of the Prophet Jeremiah.  Jeremiah, as we may remember, came to his calling under the great reformer King Josiah, but after seeing his king fall in the battle of Megiddo, and witness to the failure of the Kingdom to maintain it's devotion to God, turned his prophecy to warnings of the coming fall of Jerusalem and the subsequent Exile.  But even as he saw the fall of the Kingdom, he also foresaw a time when it would be restored, and it is from this prophecy we hear from for this 1st Sunday of Advent.  God promises to "raise up from David a just shoot," a successor who will bring safety and security in the Lord.  Jeremiah was earnest in assuring the ancient Jews that God always keeps his promises, and we Christians know this promise to be fulfilled with Jesus.  Knowing that God keeps his promises is what brings us to sing in our Psalm "To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul."

Our second reading comes from Paul's 1st letter to the Thessalonians.  This Sunday's passage is a "bridge" in the middle of the letter... the conclusion of his greeting and prayer of thanksgiving, and the beginning of his exhortation to conducting themselves in a manner pleasing to God.  Paul offers them the praise for coming to the Lord, but is also compelled to remind them that they need to continue to live according to how they were taught, with the understanding that they want to be ready for Christ's return.  Paul felt this was particularly important for the Thessalonians as they were a community surrounded by persecution, so their vigilance in the Christian life was imperative to their survival.

With the new Liturgical year we move to Cycle C of the Lectionary with its focus on the Gospel of Luke.  In this Sunday's Gospel we have Jesus warning his disciples of the terrible things to come.  Jesus knows this is his last chance as he knows is arrest will be coming soon, so he is eager for his disciples to be ready, not only for his own death, but for the end of days.  In the midst of the tribulation that will surround them, Jesus urges them to "stand erect and raise their hands," because they have nothing to fear, and to stay vigilant so that they will be ready when the Son of Man returns.

Final Thoughts:
Advent, like Lent, is a season for contemplative reflection, an opportunity to take stock in oneself and ask if we are in fact living our faith.  While the secular world prepares with a frenzy of decorating and shopping, all in the hopes for that "perfect" Christmas Day, our Christian faith challenges us to keep our focus on the day, but the future.  The commemoration of the Nativity of the Lord is a wonderful thing and we should enjoy it, but we also need to keep it in perspective.  We're not preparing for a one day celebration, but for a lifetime of Christian service.  To paraphrase Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" we need to keep the spirit of Christmas in our hearts all year long.

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