It’s a new year. Not by the monthly calendar, but by the Church’s calendar. Today is the First Sunday of Advent. Just like the civil calendar starts with January, the Church starts the new Year of Grace with Jesus in the Gospel of Mark (readings are Year B Cycle) urging us to “Be watchful! Be Alert! For you do not know when the time will come.”
Watch for what? What time is coming? These are questions that lead us into the mystery and grace of the Season of Advent. There are two things we wait for: the liturgical celebration of the Birth of Christ, the Messiah, and the time when Christ will return to claim His People and fully institute His Kingdom.
The first waiting is easier. We light the 4 Advent candles week by week; we sing, “Oh come, Oh come Emmanuel.” We hear John the Baptist cry out, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” and we pray and do a little house cleaning (going to confession). All this to prepare for the Birth of our Lord on Christmas Day. Kind of simple, eh?
Oh, how the culture gets it wrong here! We’re told these days must be filled with parties, shopping, cooking, card sending and visiting. Each of these in proper proportion can be quite good, but they tend to overrun our lives and miss the essence of what we watch and wait for. Hold onto the spirit of Advent. Patience, quiet, waiting.
The second waiting is a bit harder. Basically, we’re told to watch and wait for THE END – The end of the world, the end of our life. Why watch for that? It’s depressing! Not necessarily. It reminds us of what’s real; it puts things in proper perspective.
We’re put in touch with the fact that we are only on this earth for a while. Therefore . . . let’s use this time for doing good. And, oh, by the way, Jesus is coming again. As the Creed says, “He’s coming to judge the living and the dead.”
For someone who’s busy about spreading goodness, THE END and MY END is really good news. Because that’s when God’s Glory will be fully manifested. In the end, when Jesus has scooped us all up in the Resurrection, “He will hand over the kingdom to his God and Father. And the Son himself will be subjected to him, so that God will be all in all.” (1 Cor. 15:28)
But, here’s the part that makes me smile. In spite of all our weaknesses and yes, sin, WE HAVE TODAY ! We have the First Sunday of Advent. My story, your story, is still being told. It’s not over. Why not shoot for the moon? Why not make this the best year of your life?
I’m not talking about your best year for your savings or 401k or some unexpected windfall of good luck. Let’s make this year our “best performance” as a Christian, a child of God, a spouse, a friend, a co-worker, neighbor etc.
Why try to be the best? Because it’s the way to happiness, a way to love – it’s the way to Christ. What else can take its place?
Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel.