Advent comes first
By Rev Ian Bourne
We celebrate today, the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Church’s new liturgical year and a time pregnant with new possibilities.
It may be beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but for us Catholic Christians, this reflective season of Advent comes first, preparing us for Christmas: our Saviour Jesus’ first coming but also reminding us of and renewing our ardent desire for His Second Coming.
Jesus, our God and Good Shepherd, in today’s gospel sets the tone with His sobering reminder to “Stay awake” because the Son of Man is coming unexpectantly.
Often the significance of this Advent season is compromised or worse yet even forgotten: collateral damage in our rush and anxiety “in getting ready for Christmas”.
In our contemporary culture that means buying, cleaning, baking, partying. But is that all? Is that enough? Unfortunately, our priorities can so easily get skewed around this time of year.
Our gospel provides two images to reflect on as we live this season: Noah and the Flood on the one hand and the householder and the burglar on the other. Each image beckons us to be wary, to stay awake and reflect on the way we are living, in truly preparing for Jesus’ second return.
They challenge us to orient our activities so as not to lose sight of this bigger picture but to be found ready when Jesus returns, so we can share in the joy of His glory.
This paves the way for reflection on our heavenly home where: “God will make his home among his people, and he will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone” (Rev 21:4). Not thinking about this reality, does not make it go away.
Some may prefer present enjoyment as compared to Jesus’ promise of future happiness in His Kingdom, but Advent rituals orient us to focus with hopeful expectation of the true reason for Christmas: the coming of Jesus Christ, our Messiah.
But it begs the question of each of us: do I realise that I need a saviour? That I cannot enter the Kingdom of God except through the only gate: Jesus Christ, our redeemer?
We need to stay awake, so we don’t wander away from the straight path that leads to God. However, if we do, there is God’s faithfulness and eternal mercy, which is available to us to bring us home.
This staying awake, enhances our joyful expectation of Christmas, cultivating a sense of watchfulness and vigilance which can be achieved through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
It calls us to be receptive and attentive to God’s action in our lives so that we await the Kingdom of God in love and living God-centred lives. We are intent to follow the Father’s will so that once we sin, we seek reconciliation with God and with others whom we have wronged.
It requires us to be open to the Holy Spirit, to be awake to the needs, pains, and sufferings of others.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas but in our preparations and celebrations, may we not be found wanting by displacing Jesus from His pivotal role in our lives.
Rev Ian Bourne is a married father of two young adult children. He was ordained to the permanent diaconate on January 22, 2022, and serves the parish of Tortuga.