Nov. 29, 2015: 1st Sunday of Advent, Year C
Have you ever been disappointed by promises? Sometimes people or companies over promise and under-deliver. That was my experience at a Black Friday sale this week. I waited along with about 200 people outside a store which promised to give away $500, $100, or $10 gift certificates to it’s customers. Once the door opened, each of us was given an envelope which contained a mystery gift certificate. Like most of the folks, I got a$10 discount certificate; I had my hopes too high.
When I queued up in a long checkout line, a lady ahead of me in the line suddenly broke out in an ecstatic scream. Most of us began to cheer and clap, thinking she got the $500 gift certificate. Those standing closest to her were asking, “what did you get; what did you get?” The lady calmed down and said, “A roach just crossed my path!” It was deflating to learn that she got the same $10 discount certificate like the rest of the us.
The readings for the First Sunday of Advent focus on the promise of the coming of the Lord, in which no one knows the day nor the hour. The certainty of this promise is at the heart of Christian faith. We have confidence that God does not over promise or under-deliver. We heard in the First Reading, “The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.”
We pray in the Creed every Sunday, “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” Yet, if we are honest with ourselves we know that we are not so good at waiting; we sometimes get tired of waiting or become indifferent. So we must embrace what Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.”
“Christ comes to us bringing his light, he comes also to us granting peace! But who is watching, in the night of doubt and uncertainty, with a vigilant, praying heart? Who is waiting for the dawn of the new day, keeping alight the flame of faith? Who has time to listen to his word and to become enfolded and entranced by his love? Yes! His message of peace is for everyone; he comes to offer himself to all people as sure hope for salvation.” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)
While the rest of the world is distracted and anxious by signs of terrorism, wars, and even the self-imposed busyness of Christmas shopping and parties, we the disciples of Jesus must assume a different attitude in which we see those very signs as pointing to the Lord’s return. The most comforting thing that the Scriptures whisper to us is that the coming of Jesus is not a day to dread but a day to celebrate. And that is the core message of Advent. On March 25 each year, we celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation in which Archangel Gabriel announced the good news of the incarnation of Jesus in the womb of Blessed Mother. Almost nine months later, we are now approaching the day when we will behold the fulfillment of God’s promise of the birth of His Son. We wait for God not with a sense of dread but with lively hope---like expectant parents as they wait to hear their baby’s first cry, like wedding guests waiting to glimpse the bride as she comes down the aisle. We wait not for the end of everything but for the beginning of a new day, more beautiful than we could ever have imagined it.
Advent is a season to prepare. When we are called to meet the Lord, we don’t want to be unfamiliar to Him---or He to us. Much better if we can walk into the presence of a longtime friend. Advent calls us to reflect on that friendship and to foster it --- to spend even just a few minutes a day in conversation with Jesus.
Fr. Paul Yi