FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT
Preparing for Christ’s Coming
Fr. Udoekpo, Michael Ufok
v Isa. 2:1-5;
v Ps. 122:1-9;
v Rom. 13:11-14;
v Matt. 24:37-44
Every year we set out with joy on a spiritual journey to the Lord’s House, and of reliving and reflecting on the mysteries of Advent, the coming of Christ. This journey to the holy mountain, to the Lord’s House for salvation, for eternal life is well captured by the Psalmist; “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”
Here we are again joyfully gathered in the Lord’s House, relaunching a new Advent, a new journey, a refreshing journey, with new skills of evangelization, technology, and musical equipment (look at the new things around us) that we may not have had thousands of years ago. So many advantages for this new Advent and new season of hope. Advent is also a season of joyful expectation and preparations for the coming of Christ. Today’s scriptures take us through that historical channel and propose ways in which we must prepare for Christ and for our salvation!
In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah of Jerusalem reminds those ancient distressed, frustrated and waring nations to stream to the mountain of the Lord with hope. There God will re-establish Jerusalem (Zion) as the peace center of his worldwide kingdom, reconciling hostile nations to himself. Nations shall not raise sword against another, nor shall they train for war anymore (Isa 2:3-4; Mic 4:2ff).
In a way, Isaiah is addressing us. Even though Isaiah’s prophecy of hope was originally addressed to Ahaz, Hezekiah and his contemporary Judeans of the eighth century BC, who were faced with threats of war, exile and lose of the promised made to their father, David (2 Sam 7), we too today, can be nourished with this prophetic advocacy for peace, hope and reconciliation, especially in world that wars, threats of wars, terrorisms, conflicts, neglects of the poor, violence of all kings and divisiveness continue to be major issues. In the midst of all these Advent reassures us, the new and renewed Jerusalem that God is nearer to us, wherever we are, than we can possibly imagine- at home, school, roads, and works places.
Since God is so near with us at all times, Saint Paul, in that second reading stresses the importance of preparation for Christ (Rom 13:11-14). Writing originally to the Romans, who also had their issues, Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, you know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believe…Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
Of course for Paul darkness represents all that is not good in human communities, while light represents goodness, and the realm of Divine which is nearer to us. The garment of light that Paul recommends is nothing else, but hope for salvation when we tend to be hopeless. It represents a renewal, or an effort to reconstruct, to repair that which was once destroyed: hope, that city, peace, joy, good health of mind and body, a beautiful Jerusalem, the house David, that beautiful mountain of today’s psalm 122. That question then remains: What in your life, in your family, in your church, diocese, need a reconstruction, as we await the coming of the Lord?
As we reconstruct our brokenness in Advent we consciously strife to stay awake, positive, optimistic, joyfully, forgiving ourselves, our neighbors and those who may have offended or betrayed our trust, reaching out to the poor and the needy, the orphans and the homeless, shining the light of Christ in our neighborhood and places of work.
This is the type of preparation and eschatological watchfulness heard in today’s Gospel (Matt 24:37-44). Here, the Jesus of Matthew, the new Moses proposes that unlike Noah’s generation who were careless, indifferent and carefree in their drunkenness and merriment, we must avoid their past mistakes. Rather, we are called to stay awake, for we do not know the time nor the hour when the Son of Man will come. In other words, being prayerfully vigilance, or a conscious awareness of God's presence in our lives is key to Advent.
Such awareness also demands our being sensitive to our environment, dialogue with our culture, towns and villages since each of us can encounter Christ in most of our daily activities. It does not matter where you are and what you do Christ is with us. Christ comes to us in our children and in our neighbor’s children. Christ comes to us in our husbands and in our neighbor’s husbands. Christ comes to us in our wives and in our neighbor’s wives. Christ comes to us in our priests and pastors. Christ comes to us in our brothers and sisters, in our neighbors. He comes to us in the Scriptures and in the sacraments we celebrate.
In this season of Advent, he comes to us in our friends, in the poor of out towns, cities and villages, in the sick, and the needy and in the less fanciful. He comes to us even in those that may be less friendly to us. He comes to us in every event of our lives, in our sufferings, illnesses and crosses. The question then remains, can we stay awake with hope, in whatever situation we find ourselves. And can we offer hope to others who are struggling to recognize the nearness of Christ in their lives vicissitudes?
1. In what ways are you consciously aware of God’s presence, his nearness in our lives, families and faith communities?
2. Do we make effort to avoid attitudes of indifference to the plight of our neighbors, especially the poor and the less privileged?
3. In what practical ways do we help members of our faith community, reconstruct their lives, faith, hope, love, relationship, and stay awake for the coming of Christ?