1st Sunday of Advent Year B 2014
Hard to believe it is here already, but it is Advent. Time for the Church to don purple vestments and put out our Advent wreathe. Advent has always been one of my favorite times of year. I love Christmas parties, Christmas cards, presents, cookies, cakes, etc… No wonder I always gain weight at Christmas. Anyway, this is a joyful time of year.
When describing Advent, one document of the Church called it a time of joyful and devout expectation. So, this week we are going to talk about joy. Next week devout, and so on. Joy is a deep and profound reality. And while I think there is joy during this season, Christians should experience joy all year round. Joy is much more than bubbly exuberance. I think when people think about joy they usually think about that valley girl from the 80’s: “Oh my gosh, I’m soooo excited.” But, that kind of joy is fleeting, especially in the face of the trials and tribulations of life. Joy and Advent go hand in hand because the coming of Christ is the source of our joy.
While I’m up here talking all about joy, we have in the background the words of Christ that were just read. Be watchful, be alert. The master is away and he might be coming back at any minute. What is your reaction to this text? Does it immediately fill you with joy? Or does it make you feel anxious or worried?
It is a fundamental part of the Christian message that we expect Jesus to come again. If you notice we talk about it in the Creed, we talk about in the Eucharistic prayer, and every year during Advent we remember that Christ will come again. Christ’s coming is not just something to think about during Advent, it should saturate our whole Christian existence. But, it makes us nervous, or because of the uncertainty, we tend to think about it as something happening a long way off. So, we are either afraid of Christ’s coming, or we don’t think about it. This is why it is tough for us to be filled with joy when we think about Christ’s coming.
Let this be a time of year for us to renew our appreciation for the coming of Jesus. I think we need to remember just who it is that is coming to us. Our image of Jesus changes the way we look for his coming. If we think of him as an angry tyrant bent on punishing the wicked, then we will be fearful and afraid. If we think of him as the good shepherd who was sent to seek out the lost, we might have a different opinion. If we remember that God so loved the world that he sent his beloved son, and that he sent his beloved son not to condemn the world, but to save the world, we might have a different opinion. If we think of Christ like the father in the story of the prodigal son, always on the lookout for us, his lost children, we might have a different opinion.
Today Christ tells us to watch, wait. He will come anytime. This is exciting news! Kids, just think of all the homework you won’t have to do if Christ comes back. Parents, just think of all those mortgage payments you won’t have to make. Think of the end of death, sadness, sickness, mourning. The end of suffering, the end of violence, the end of war, the end of sin.
If we start to think about the coming of Christ in these terms, I think our hearts will be full of joy. We know that this day is coming. We continue to live our lives each day, we continue to meet our responsibilities and tackle our burdens. But, we know that the pain, suffering, and difficulties of this life are temporary. The kingdom of Christ will last forever. Advent is a season to renew our joy, to renew our faith in Christ, to renew our desire to see him face to face. As we receive this Holy Eucharist, we welcome Jesus into our hearts asking him to prepare us for that day. Jesus says watch, be ready; we say, come Lord Jesus.