1st Sunday of Advent
Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
This weekend begins the church’s year. Advent is here. Once again the church begins its proclamation of eternal life in Jesus.
Usually Advent simply is seen as a time to prepare for Christmas, and in the current American culture, a tempered, penitential season seems strange.
Actually, the season calls us to welcome Jesus into our own hearts. Then, it calls us to prepare ourselves for the final coming of Jesus at the end of time. Christmas symbolizes these additional occasions of the Lord’s arrival into our hearts — if we are willing to receive the Lord. This is where the penitential season enters the picture. We must prepare ourselves for Jesus.
Jeremiah provides the first reading. This ancient Hebrew prophet was forceful and even urgent in his writing. His theme, as it was the theme of all the prophets, was that God’s people could expect no peace or joy in their lives until they wholeheartedly returned to God.
In this reading, the prophet notes the sad state of affairs for God’s people. They have been humbled. Misery is their lot. Sin has produced this unhappy situation.
However, always merciful, always good, and always protective, God will send into their midst a Savior, a descendant of King David. All will be fine.
The first Epistle to the Thessalonians supplies the next reading. It is an appeal to the Christians of Thessalonica, now the Greek city of Saloniki, to love each other. This love will be the sign of inwardly following the Lord. The message ends by “begging” the Christian Thessalonians to live their lives in a way pleasing to God.
St. Luke’s Gospel gives the third reading. It is forthright, even stark, as is typical of Luke’s Gospel. Quoting Jesus, it states that signs suddenly and overwhelmingly will come in the sky. Nations will be in anguish. The seas will roar. People will die of fright.
Amid all this great drama, Jesus will come in might and in glory. Instead of being a dreadful event, the Lord’s arrival will be an occasion to rejoice. He will bring final redemption.
All must actively anticipate the Lord’s coming, however, by praying and sacrifice.
This Gospel was written when, for Christians, the world was becoming a difficult place to be. Jesus, however, would prevail. His truly devoted followers also will prevail.
Christmas, in every culture, is lovely, as befits the commemoration of the birth of the loving and forgiving Redeemer, universally celebrated among Christians. It is the acclamation of life itself, and of redemption.
Still, the forthcoming feast of Christmas has profoundly personal, individual considerations, and in some respects it is a warning.
As St. Luke’s Gospel so bluntly says, as Advent says, Christ one day will confront us all. It may be a personal meeting, as many Christians already have experienced. It may be at the end of time, in some manner yet unknown, but about which the Scriptures offer such colorful hints.
In any case, we all shall meet Christ. It may be a victorious reunion for us. It will be such a day, if we have followed the Lord in our own lives. Jeremiah looks to such a day of salvation and victory.
However, it will be final and intense. Good will stand starkly opposite evil. We must choose the side toward which we will go. If we choose the side of right, and of God, we will need strength. Evil is powerful, and it lures us to death. God will strengthen us. We must ask for the strength, and our request must be sincere. It must be honest and uncompromised. Thus, in Advent, by prayer and sacrifice, we strengthen our own resolve to turn to God, to meet Christ as our Lord and Savior.
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