Preparing for Sunday anticipating this day.The First Sunday of Advent
Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
There is a popular song from a Broadway musical, Mame, which is sung at a time when there are low spirits. “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute.” We need a lot of Advent right these very moments. We are praying through warring days, not just between military forces, but within the broad family of believers.
One group deeply believes in the One God Who has sent the Messiah to lead us all back to a loving relationship with that One God. One group believes that this Messiah is still to come and His reign will bring peace and harmony to all nations. A third major section believes in the teachings of a great prophet and whose teachings, if lived by all, will bring order and blessedness to earth. All three groups have had histories with each other that make order, harmony, and blessedness something still for which to be hoped and prayed.
We begin Advent today with visions of spears and swords. Our First Reading is an oracle in which Isaiah foretells the prominence of Jerusalem as the learning-place. The various tribes and districts have been wandering in ignorance and the prophet tells them to climb up to Zion and learn the lessons which will lead them to peace between and among themselves.
This is less an anti-war passage and more an invitation to listen to what the Teacher is offering. The instructions of God are not so much about how to live as about remembering who we are. The People of God had often forgotten who they were and had separated into various segments having different gods and customs. Isaiah announces that on the mountain of Zion, God will recall to them who they are and recall them to “walk in the light of the Lord.”
We hear Jesus giving instructions in today’s Gospel. His disciples have come to believe in Him as the Messiah, if a little tentatively. He makes reference to the time of Noah when many had drifted away from who they were. They were then swept away by the flood, but not Noah and his band of believers who had listened.
He continues his instruction by moving their attention to the future. Jesus’ kingdom is the new flood and those who watch for it will sail and those who continue playing at life will fail. The flood will call for readiness and then decisions. Being prepared for the flood of Christ is different from being prepared for war, but rather for a relationship.
Preparing for a relationship with God through the teachings of Jesus implies an openness to the unknown. We, as disciples, are to be as attentive and awake as we would be if we knew our homes were to be burglarized. The One Who is coming wants to be seen, caught, apprehended and then investigated. This is the spirit of Christianity and of this Advent. Decisions have to be made about to whose instruction we will listen. Which mountain will we climb? Within whose light will we walk?
For us, Advent is not merely a season, but a way of responding to the flood of Christ’s love. We believe in His first coming and we wait for the last, but we pray to be open to the next coming. We live in a relationship with Him which gives His Body new birth and life. We, each of us, are parts of His present coming. We not only wait for the final appearance, but also enter into His present appearance. We are parts of His always-adventing.
Our Jewish sisters and brothers are faithful to their call with the same fragility and fidelity, as do we. They have listened and they listen now for the coming of the One Who will lead us all to peace.
Our Muslim brothers and sisters also believe in their prophet’s teachings with determined faith and human weakness. We cannot tell them they are wrong, deceived, and unloved by God. Our believing in Jesus moves us to live as if He has come to stay and continues arriving in our actions which are reflected in how we render spears and swords into instruments for harvesting.
God is not playing games with us, asking us to choose behind which
mystical door God might be standing. We do have to choose again and
again to allow Jesus to advent through us and thereby give Him “new Bethlehems
and new Nazareths.” We need more than a little Advent this year.
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