Saturday, November 26, 2016

Nov. 27, 2016 1st Sunday Advent A

Nov. 27, 2016 1st Sunday Advent A

Click to hear Audio Homily

I hope your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. Many of us spent the special day being grateful for all that God has given us, spending time with family, and enjoying a special meal. Our family gathered at my parent's home in Texas with my sister's family, driving in from Baltimore, Maryland. We ate an enormous Thanksgiving dinner of rice, beef soup, and bean pancakes while watching the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins football game. All the while we loosened our belts and took occasional naps. That evening I went with my nephews, niece and their dad to a big box store for a pre-Black Friday shopping spree with specific instructions from my dad--their grandfather: ‘they are to choose whichever two or three items they want in the store.’ Although their grandpa was being very generous, their dad pulled them aside and said, "Nothing over $10, clear?" I'm sure many of you went shopping as well. Did you notice though, that even before Thanksgiving and Halloween, Christmas decorations were already in retail shops? Christmas begins earlier every year in this country. Many shops and businesses compete to have the first and the biggest display of Christmas lights and decorations. Advertisements for Christmas toys commence in October. I know folks who received Christmas party invitations two weeks ago. Therefore, it is not surprising that some people feel that Christmas is anticlimactic because it has ended almost before it has begun.

From a Christian perspective, however, Christmas does not begin until December 25 and it is preceded by four weeks of waiting and preparation during the season of Advent. Our focus in Advent is on waiting in hope for the fulfillment of God’s promise to save us through the Messiah, and on preparing for the Second Coming of Christ on the Last Day when all the nations will be assembled before him. Our Christian hope is incomplete without this understanding of Advent, the season of waiting. Advent is not about staying awake to wonder when the end of time will be. Advent is about recovering that which has become hidden in us over time. It is about waking up from our spiritual darkness and assuming a position of waiting -- of waiting, fully prepared for the coming of the Lord. We are to come awake again out of the slumber of our everyday existence. What we know in our minds we must allow to come alive again in our hearts. God is with us. God chose to send his Son among us, as one of us. We are prepared for our ultimate encounter with the Lord, face to face, by our encounters with God in the readings, in prayer, in the Sacraments, and preeminently in and through Eucharist.

The worldly sense of hope, which is most accurately expressed as wishful thinking, lacks surety or certainty. To be hopeful in the worldly sense is to articulate a desire or a wish that may or may not be realized. For example, when we say, ‘We hope that that the sugar cane grinding season will finish before Christmas, but we cannot be certain that it will be completed by then. In sharp contrast, Christian hope is a virtue and it expresses certainty based on God’s promise to be faithful to us in all circumstances. For instance, when we say, ‘We hope in the resurrection of the dead’, we are not simply engaging in wishful thinking. We are articulating and communicating a certainty that is based on our faith.

As I watched my nephews and niece shop in the store, I could not help but notice all the folks busily stuffing their carts with large electronics, beddings, and other doorbuster items. Fortunately for my dad, my nephews chose Pokémon trading cards instead of expensive Nintendo games. Back at home, these six- and nine-year old nephews began to tear all the packaging and compare the cards they got. At the beginning both boys were elated and excited. Then they began to shove and push each other as they were envious of the cards that the other had. Both began to clutch their cards as to guard some precious jewels and both angrily said to the other, "These are mine! Don't touch them! No, you can't have them!" Their 12-year old sister told me that both boys owned in excess of one hundred of Pokémon cards. In some way these boys' behavior reflected what we adults do with material goods. We feel as though we never have enough, and we're envious of others' goods even though we already own what we need.

Our readings today are all about time, and about coming awake again in time. During this season of Advent, let us remember all that has happened over this past year, to remember the tragedies and failures, the successes and joys. As we light each candle on our Advent wreath, we mark both the year that has been and the time that is to come. Lighting the candle is lighting up our hope again -- to pray, remember and give thanks to God for all that already has been given to us, and to look forward with hope to the coming Kingdom of our Savior, Christ Jesus the Lord.