November 29, 2015 — First Sunday of Advent
Today is, of course, the First Sunday of Advent. It reminds us that Christmas is very close, but it also needs to prompt us to remember what else we need to do to prepare for the coming of Christ, His birth on Christmas. The word Advent comes to us from the Latin Adventus, which means “coming.” It also begins our new liturgical year. The first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday nearest to the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (Nov. 30) so it always falls somewhere between Nov. 27 at the earliest and Dec. 3 at the latest.
Advent is a preparatory season. During this holy time we look forward to something greater, in this case Christmas, but also for the time when Christ will come again. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia Advent is a time when we “Prepare ourselves to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord’s arrival into the world (Christmas)”; “Make our souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer through Holy Communion” and “Make ourselves ready for Christ’s final coming as judge at the end of the world.”
As we might expect on this day which begins our celebration of the time leading up to Christmas, all our readings have reference to the coming of Christ, both in His birth and in His Second Coming. The First Reading from the Prophet Jeremiah, as is the case with almost all the prophets, predicts and anticipates the coming of the Messiah. When Jesus arrives on Christmas, His coming has been predicted for centuries. Jeremiah, writing more than 500 years before the birth of Jesus, quotes God, “I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land.” Seventeen times in the New Testament Jesus is referred to as the Son of David. It is not that He is David’s son; of course, He is the Son of God and the Son of Man. However, He is of the seed of David, the lineage of David. Christmas is the fulfillment of this prophecy.
If there is one thing Jesus consistently communicated to us, it was that we must “love one another.” The Second Reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians connects the coming of Jesus to His message of love. “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” Advent is a time when we must work on that love, and love is work, to be sure. This is a time for us to reconcile any hatred and resentment that resides in our hearts. That is part of our preparation for His coming, so that we might, as Paul indicates, “conduct ourselves to please God.” If we are serious about being the Lord’s disciple, and if we see ourselves as good stewards, Advent is another time for us to make a firm commitment to living in the way Jesus expects us to.
We have just a few weeks to accomplish what Jesus wants us to achieve. The Church does much to make this easier for us. Today’s Gospel from St. Luke tells us that we are to prepare for much more than Christ’s birth. We should also be preparing for His final coming (remember that Advent means “coming”). Jesus says, “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Jesus is this same “Son of Man” to Whom Jeremiah refers. Advent is a time for us to increase our vigilance; it is a time for us to pray (“Pray always!”), and it is especially a time for us to look for and find ways that help us prepare, which improve and increase our faith and our commitment to Christ. This is a stewardship time.
In one of his homilies given on the First Sunday of Advent in 2013, our Holy Father Pope Francis stated, “The time of Advent that we begin today returns us to the horizon of hope, a hope that does not disappoint because it is founded on the Word of God. A hope that does not disappoint, simply because the Lord never disappoints! He is faithful!” Let us, too, vow to be faithful. Let us make this Advent as fulfilling as possible.