First Sunday of Advent
November 29, 2020
Dear Followers of the Messiah,
So, we start a new liturgical year. We take a deep breath and learn again to rely on the love Jesus has for his people. We sing, still with masks covering our mouths, but with a new desire in our bodies to welcome the Incarnate Savior. I pray we can pay attention to Jesus this year and keep our focus on love. Much healing needs to happen. Our children have experienced the clumsiness of our world, the inappropriate manner in which we have treated people, and the offensive language of our political lives. This Advent can be different. This Advent, we can focus on the mystery that love is born in our world even when we feel we have misplaced such a gift.
I pray for the world this Advent, that we may bear the unbelievable mystery of God. We are caretakes of love. Our skin colors may be different, our accents not easily understood, but we are all children of God. We don’t have all the answers to the pandemic. We struggle to care for the earth upon which we live. We are caretakers of the fact that Jesus became flesh for all people. In this mystery, I hold fast.
We carry much baggage with us into this new liturgical year. We still can’t easily gather in groups. Our children don’t know from week to week how they will be educated. Our parents have delt with job loss and financial uncertainty. The one thing we have learned however in this pandemic is that we need God. Jesus can no longer be a stranger in our households. The baby Jesus does not remain in a manger scene. He has to grow up. We begin with the adult Jesus in the Advent gospels. He is a sign to us to get our acts together, to grow up, and to explore our adult faith. He advises us to get moving.
Today’s gospel, Mark 13:33-37 is short but packs a real punch. Jesus tells a simple story of a man traveling abroad. He leaves home. His servants are in charge. Jesus commands, “Stay awake…Be alert…Watch!” Those commands compel us. What are we watching for? What shall we be alert to? If we don’t, what will happen?
The servant is asked to protect the property from disaster, from theft, and from those who would destroy the owner’s goods. We are asked to care for all that God has left us on earth. In other words, God has left everything for us to hold as treasure. I think this is really important for us to acknowledge. Sometimes we think that world peace is not our worry or that the ground we stand on is not our responsibility. We often live the sin of entitlement, that we have earned our place standing on the earth. The earth, and even our lives, are not throw-a-way. The earth is ours for which to care. Every day is sheer gift. Every aspect of raising children or burying our parents and everything in-between becomes an opportunity to hold the mystery of God’s presence within us.
This gospel helps us expand our view of life and faith. It penetrates our hearts toward the care of people who need us to stay awake. This new liturgical year gives us an opportunity to open a new door to our own selfishness, our obstinance toward others, and our apathy toward people who are different from our selves. We are called to stay awake and to live with expectation of the Lord’s coming.
We must learn to live differently in Advent. We are asked to stay awake through all the turmoil of racial violence, to stand among the marginalized, to ask deeper questions to those who abuse their power. Waking up is not passive. We are challenged to hold the light of faith boldly in the world. Our actions in the world declare our faith.
Advent does not begin by waiting for the cozy scene of childbirth with red and green accessories. This is not what we are waiting for in the first weeks of this season. We are waiting for a fresh breeze in our hearts that wakes us from slumber so we may get to work. Our faith in God is serious, life changing, and full of compassion toward all people.
Advent holds a three-dimensional understanding of God’s presence. We wait in the past, along with our ancestors who longed for the Messiah. We wait in the future for Jesus’ Second Coming. However, the third may be more important for us. We wait for God to crack open our stubborn and callused hearts. Today is the day to wake up.
If life in these past months of pandemic and all of the events in our world have not showed us that we need God, I am not sure what will. So, together, let’s remain awake.
God give you peace,