December 1, 2019 — First Sunday in Advent
IS 2:1-5; PS 122:1-9; ROM 13: 11-14; MT 24:37-44
Today begins the beautiful season of Advent. It is a season meant for preparation. For what exactly are we preparing? Two things, actually: the celebration of our Savior’s birth and the anticipation of His second coming. These are weighty tasks that have eternal consequences. So, let us Christian stewards make the words of the Prophet Isaiah our motto for the season: “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths.”
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, it seems everywhere we turn, we are pushed to spend more, do more, entertain more, and generally rush around at a frantic pace — all to create a “perfect” Christmas day. In contrast to this worldly pressure, the Church’s guidance to use these weeks as a time to focus on our spiritual lives can indeed seem like a mountain-climb.
But the intentional and wise use of the gift of time is exactly what the Christian steward is called to do, and with even greater intensity during Advent.
St. Paul makes this so clear in his letter to the Romans, our second reading today. He instructs, “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.” And, what should we do once awake? We must become like Christ. St. Paul puts it this way: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.”
Our Lord Himself gives us several powerful images to fix in our minds as we travel through the Advent season.
First, He calls to mind for us the image of Noah preparing the ark in the days before the flood. While Noah used his time (and talents) to follow God’s instructions in preparation for the coming flood, everyone else around him was “living it up.” This is exactly what it can feel like for us as we attempt to focus our time on spiritual matters in the days leading up to Christmas! But when the flood came, those unprepared were carried away by the water while Noah endured unharmed. Jesus warns that this is how it will be at His second coming.
To further illustrate the suddenness with which He will return, Jesus describes it as two men out in a field. One man gets taken while the other is spared. He also describes it as two women grinding at a mill, one taken, the other spared. Then he describes His return as a thief in the night, certainly the image of a sudden and unexpected event. “Therefore, stay awake!” He implores, adding, “So, too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
How can we Christian stewards prepare ourselves and our families for a holy celebration of Jesus’ birth on Dec. 25 and for His certain second coming at a date we do not know? We can push back against the world’s pressure to have the “perfect Christmas.” Scale back on the material kind of gift-giving, the complicated menus, the unessential trappings of the season so that we have more time for the spiritual preparations: Confession, weekday Mass, adoration, family prayer time, lighting the Advent wreath, performing acts of kindness.
It may feel like a mountain climb, but in the end we will be prepared to celebrate a truly meaningful Christmas, we will have become more like our Savior, and we will be ready for Him to come again. Let’s go climb the Lord’s mountain!