The First Sunday of Advent, Franciscan Friars.
In those days, in that time,
I will raise up for David a just shoot ;
he shall do what is right and just in the land. Jeremiah 33:15
If there is any magical time of the year, it is Christmas. As a child, I would wait for that day which seemed to take an eternity to arrive. Everything was exciting: the decorations at home, the special atmosphere in the department stores, the glittering lights in the streets, carols everywhere and the sense of extreme anticipation. The sudden change in color at Mass from eternal green to mysterious purple suggested something was up, something was on the way. It was almost overwhelming for a small child. Perhaps the wise men felt that as they started out on their journey towards they knew not what. Mary, heavy with child, and Joseph must have been concerned about her condition and what they would have to do when the time came. So anticipation seems to be the omnipresent feeling of Advent, a word from Latin which means arrival or coming. It represented the second crucial moment of God’s interaction with us in human history. The first is reported in the 12th chapter of Genesis, when God, as a still small voice, called on Abram/Abraham to obey his commands, some 2,000 years before the birth of Christ. By the time of Jesus, much was known about God, who had revealed divine qualities over the years even to establishing a personal relationship with the Hebrews, the chosen people. Now God was sending Jesus into our midst to show how, exactly, we should respond in thought and deed to God’s close relationship with us. It was the dawning of the time of God’s Son. His mission was to demonstrate clearly and simply what kind of life we should lead as God’s children.
The arrival of God’s Chosen One was also foreseen and eagerly awaited by the people. The prophets had foretold his coming, they had even spoken of the deeds he would do, and suggested a great liberation he would bring for all. As we see from today’s first reading and psalm, he was to be of the house of David, the greatest of the Hebrew kings. He would do what was just and right, he would assist the humble to justice, guide all people in the truth. And the gospel is even more explicit on how we should anticipate his coming. Go take a look at what it says! Except that the gospel talks to us today, not in the way that the Old Testament talks. Just as they waited for the Messiah 2,000 years ago, today’s gospel reading urges us to get ready for the second coming of the Lord, whenever that might be. We are not to be so tangled up in the worries and anxieties of the day, not to go partying about so we lose all sense of who and what we are called to be, not to be distracted, in other words, to be always ready for the Lord who may arrive at any moment. We could add to that, either the moment of the Last Judgement, or indeed that moment when the Lord calls each of us from this life. That would be true and righteous anticipation, and we should be ready.
So Advent is surely a time to get ready for Christmas, to throw ourselves into the joyous preparation for the arrival of Christ at Christmas. But there should also be, as it were, a deeper preparation for each of us to be ready for another arrival for each of us, the moment we are called from this life, and always be ready for that other final endtime moment which may or may not happen in our lifetime, but for which we should always be ready.
“Journey to Bethleham” Christmas Story Track Three.