Readings for the First Sunday of Advent, Cycle C – 2015
1 Thessalonians 3:12—4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Waiting for something is not one of our culture’s strong traits. People in our current culture do not like to wait for much of anything. Microwaves speed up the process of cooking, but even that isn’t fast enough once in a while. Couples used to believe that it was better to wait until they were married to live together, but no longer. The realm of marketing Christmas as a time to buy gifts for the “holidays” has people so tired of Christmas by December 25 that they can’t wait to take down on Christmas evening the tree in their home that was put up in mid-November even though on the Church calendar, Christmas is celebrated December 25 through the feast of the Baptism of the Lord almost 3 weeks later. Our culture is hooked on quick gratification, now not later. An attitude that pervades our 21st century American culture seems to be waiting for something to come, living in anticipation, is a bad thing. “If its a good thing, something that will make me feel good, why should I have to wait?” say the people of our day.
The culture of not wanting to wait for something, so evident in the way secular society observes “the holidays” before the actual “holy days” of Christmastime occur, makes what we try to live here in church more difficult to accomplish. We begin our period of waiting today. We remind ourselves we are a people who are in waiting. We are a people waiting for the “Advent of our King”, our savior Jesus who will come sometime in the future while we concentrate living in the present moment, not rushing things. The Christian is a person who lives with the tension between having to live in the present moment while waiting for the Lord to come back when he will make everything that destroys life in the here and now cease to exist. Christmas celebrates the first “coming of Jesus” in the past. In our present day the Catholic Church’s calendar gives us 4 weeks to prepare for, not celebrate, the feast of Christmas so that we can also appreciate that our present every day lives are to be a preparation for the second coming of Christ. In holding back, in waiting for something, we learn what it means to be disciples of Jesus. Disciples are people who work to make the reign of Jesus which will be established completely in the future a reality in the here and now. Advent is a time to discipline ourselves in the art of waiting! Waiting can be good. Waiting can increase our desire for the coming of the Lord and magnify our appreciation of his mercy when he arrives.
Perhaps our culture is so prone to celebrating a time like Christmas before the day arrives because they fear that the future may not arrive for them. Some people are fearful of the future, for sure. Our world is in such a mess! Climate change may make life harder for my grandchildren. Religious fundamentalists may blow my plane out of the sky on that trip I’m going to take to visit family at Christmas. Advertisements for financial advisors try to scare people into their offices “Will you have enough money to retire comfortably?” If a person pays attention to the news it sure does seem like the future is scary. The Gospel of this Mass even says there will be scary things in the future. But Jesus goes on to say, “Don’t worry about it! What people who follow me need to focus on is that I’m coming to make all things right, to correct what’s wrong with human life. It’s going to be great!”
Maybe it is a bit disturbing to ponder our coming death and the final judgement. People often ask their priest “Will I get into heaven? Am I good enough? I’ve done a lot of sinning, Father!” Let’s recall this day the message of the Gospel is one of a merciful God, a God who sent his son in the past to stand in for us on the cross so that all we humans do will not result in a future to fear, but to be hopeful about. It’s not what we do in the present that will get us to heaven, it’s what Jesus did for us in the past that secures a future worth waiting for.
So, while we’re waiting for the Good News of Jesus’ coming again to become the reality of the eternal present, Jesus encourages us to not let the “anxieties” of the present get to us and distract us. Present anxieties can be things like “How am I going to get my shopping done in time?” “I’ve got so much to do, cookies to bake, decorations to put up?” Frankly, those are good things, but they may be distracting us from the tasks that help us wait with the eager expectation the scripture is encouraging us to have. The question for us in Advent to ponder is what can I be doing to show others God loves them? What steps can I be taking, just for today, to show that Jesus is more important to me, that the Good News of Jesus is what society needs more than the news that there are only so many more days to shop before it’s too late. Maybe telling our family members how much we love them can prepare them to receive the love of Jesus when he comes. Reconciling with someone we’ve hurt will open hearts to receive the mercy of Christ at his coming. Feeding the poor, comforting the sick, visiting the lonely will give the Kingdom of God we await a foothold in the present world so that more people will want Jesus to come, again.
A current commercial that has been running in the media since November 1st encourages people to “Win the Holidays!” The Scriptures today remind us that we’re not in a contest to earn love through spending money for presents that can break or will eventually be thrown away filling up garbage dumps. We already have received the gift of the Love of God in Jesus Christ. Let’s spend some time preparing, waiting for the Love of God to come, again, with a love for the world that will bring justice and peace the world so needs even now. The opening prayer of today’s Mass gives us the clue to how to live as disciples who are people called to live in a time of waiting,
Almighty God, grant your faithful the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom.