The gospel readings for Advent each year invite us to meditate on the mystery of waiting, and they do it by presenting us with stories of great people who knew how to wait. On the first Sunday, Jesus himself is the model as he taught his followers the spirituality of “waiting in joyful hope”.
The passage is clearly in two sections, verses 25 to 28, and verses 34 to 36.
You must interpret verses 25 to 28 in the light of your experience, times when your world or the world of your family or other community collapsed. Allow the dramatic language to express this experience, making sure that you recognise the double movement of collapse and rebirth.
If you decide to meditate on verses 34 to 36, the key will be to identify concretely the meaning of “that day”, a time like the one in verses 25 to 28. Then you will get a feel for the teaching of Jesus.
Lord, great tragedies befall us from time to time:
* we lose our job;
* a spouse proves unfaithful;
* we discover that one of our children is on drugs;
* we fall into a sin we thought we had overcome.
These are moments of great distress. It is as if the sun and moon and stars are no longer there in the heavens. We feel as if we are drowning, the ocean and its clamorous waves overwhelming us. The powers of heaven have been shaken and we are dying of fear as we await the future which menaces us.
But, somehow or other, that moment, terrible as it is, brings its own grace:
* we find we have more courage than we thought;
* our family finds a new unity;
* we forgive a long-standing hurt.
Jesus comes into our lives with power and great glory.
We have learnt now that we need never panic.
When these things begin to take place, we can stand erect, hold our heads high,
because a moment of grace and liberation is near at hand.
Lord, we thank you for the times when oppressed people can stand erect
and hold their heads high because a moment of liberation is near at hand.
“After one time, is two time.” Trinidad saying
Lord, at one point in our lives we felt that good times would never end.
We lived mindlessly, looking down on others who were less successful or less virtuous.
We thank you for bringing us to our senses:
* we fell sick;
* we fell into a sin we thought we would never commit;
* one of our children got into trouble with the law.
It was Jesus warning us to watch ourselves,
and reminding us that the day of reckoning is always sprung on us like a trap,
for it comes down on every living person on the face of the earth.
Lord, make us aware of how our minds have been coarsened
by over-indulgence and being too much engrossed by the cares of this life.
We know that what counts in life is to be able to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.
Lord, we sometimes think that, as a church community,
we are exempt from the ups and downs of institutions.
But the day of crisis is sprung on us suddenly like a trap,
just as it comes down on every group on the face of the earth.
Introduction to the Celebration
Today we begin Advent. This is the period when we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Christ among us two millennia ago, but we also believe that he is coming among us now and so we have to be prepared to receive him, and we know that he will come again at the end of time and we have to prepare the world for his coming. Everything we do as Christians is related to these three comings. So let us reflect on how it is because he first came that we are here at the Eucharist today; gathered now we ask pardon of our sins that we might be prepared for his second coming in this Eucharist; and as a community let us pray that we will be ready to stand before him when he comes again in glory.
1. On this first Sunday of Advent the church’s thoughts are concentrated not on the coming of the Lord in Palestine two millennia ago, nor upon the new liturgical year, but on the Second Coming at ‘the end of time’. What do we mean by this curious phrase: ‘the end of time’?2. Approaching this theme in a homily presents three difficulties. First, it can easily be heard as apocalypticism. That is, it seems to the hearers that there is a direct link between some breakdown in the world order now (either in the social order, the realm of justice, peace, or some vague threat from a monstrous other) and God’s action of punishing or letting everyone get what they deserve. In this scenario, everything going wrong is actually a bizarre proof that Christians are right and that the more disastrous things get the more it shows that God is in charge for he has already written the script. An example of this is the position of many American fundamentalists on the problems of climate change: no use doing anything about it, it is part of God’s plan to punish the world for not being ‘saved’. Such ideas are far from the perspective of most Catholics, but there has been an enormous growth in Catholic apocalypticism since the 1980s and many people in any average congregation will be disposed to hearing today’s gospel, and any talk about the end times, in such millenarian terms. It is significant that the two sections of the discourse that are most explicitly part of the apocalyptic tradition are omitted today: clearly, apocalypticism has no place in Advent preaching.
3. Second, there is a danger that speaking about the end times is not about the consummation of the universe, but a fingerwagging exercise about the religious equivalent of what some cosmologists call the ‘Great Crunch’. Whatever we say about the them end times must be clearly part of God’s plan. Hence it is part of God’s loving plan for the universe and so must be appreciably part of the good news. There has been a curious double think about this: God is love, but if you don’t love, then God holds a stick! Such presentations are necessarily false: the coming to completion of the creation, the kingdom, is the completion of God~ s loving plan. It must be presented as analogous to the end of year party, not the end of term exams.
4. Third, there are few areas of our faith where we know less, where our language is more strained, and where our images are less precise. Ironically, the fact that there is so little we can say about the Consummation has actually left a gap which imagination has filled to overflowing, and not always with a profound outcome.
5. Here is a possible approach to the question. The ‘End of the World’ has two meanings.
Firstly, there is the very obvious one of the cosmos coming to an end or the whole created order being radically transformed by God. The second meaning of the end of the world is the end of the world I as an individual inhabit: my world will come to an end at my death. In regard to the first meaning we have no information whatsoever within revelation as to when the universe will cease (this is a point worth making as there have been, and still are, many who engage in ‘scriptural mathematics’ using the Book of Daniel and the Apocalypse of John to find out how long more the world has got!).
On the second meaning of the end of the world, my death, we are in a different situation: I may not know the day nor the hour (and am glad that I do not know this), but I am certain that I am going to die. Whatever happens in the future of my life, good things or bad things, I know that it will end. That end will be my end time, my eschaton.
6. Whichever meaning we use, there is a common feature: at The End we must not imagine a giant chasm, but the figure of the Logos who shares a human nature with all approaching him as their priest, prophet, and king. Christ as King stands at the end of time gathering all the fragments of each of our lives, and of the life of the whole cosmos, and refashioning that existence so that nothing is lost. He gathers and refashions our life so that as a new creation this existence, my life, can be presented to the Father.
7. The Good News is that the end is not a crunch, but the glorious figure of the Lord.
8. The end is the gathering of all the little pieces of our scattered and fragmented lives, all our joys, all our collaborations with the grace of God, all the goodness we have sought to create, the peace we have fostered, the reconciliation that we have sought, the acts of kindness and mercy, the attempts to witness to the truth in the face of falsehood or injustice. All these scattered actions are gathered into a new existence that the Christ can offer to the Father in the Spirit.
9. The word ‘End’ is a word with many sad connotations for us:
the end of a relationship, the end of a film or a moment of enjoyment, the pain that is a common part of the ending of a life. We look forward to the consummation, the completion of the universe; Thus can we read in the gospel: ‘then [we] will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near’ (Lk 21:27-8).
This gospel passage is taken from a chapter dealing with both the medium and long term future for believers in which Jesus recognises that although he has come to bring freedom and peace, that does not mean there will be an immediate end to violence and suffering. The language is that of apocalyptic which is a type of writing aimed at encouraging people to believe in God’s ultimate victory, the triumph of good over evil. By the time that Luke’s gospel was written, people were wondering when would Jesus return and how would they know. Here they are reminded that the key thing is not to he able to tell the future but to be faithful to the way of Jesus, especially a prayerful way of reflecting on the times we live in.
You might be wondering how are these readings supposed to help us get ready for Christmas? Well, they do this by reminding us that Advent is a time of waiting – a getting ready for the return of Jesus – not just a recalling of the first Christmas but a preparation for the fact that he will come again. So the focus for us at the start of each Advent is the invitation to prayerful taking stock of how ready are we, as individuals and as a church, to receive him however, wherever and whenever he comes to us.
Donal Neary S.J.
The four weeks of Advent are a slow wait: one candle this week, the empty crib. With Mary and Joseph we wait for Christ. The candles light the way for them – and for us, one each week of Advent.Christmas should come quickly – the message of the ads. We could be excused for thinking it is nearly over. The Christmas parties are well under way. Some dinners for the elderly have been held already. The carols have been playing for weeks now.
The best waiting, like waiting for birth, is slow. Parents wonder about their child – who will he / she be like? The mother needs support and love; the children look forward to another baby; grandparents wait in pride. Even when the family situation is limited, we wait in joy and hope for the child – like Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah and all the bible parents who waited, often for many years.
How is my faith this year from last year? And what would I be asking for? Would I promise anything to help me wait actively for Jesus – Mass more often than Sunday, the Angelus every day, to read the gospel each day, to be kinder and more just, care for the poor and needy at home or away. Let my Advent bring me closer to God and effect for the best the lives of those close to me. If we wait in faith and in hope, then everything, even the carols sung too early and the celebrations too early, can remind us of the God who is coming soon in Jesus Christ, to be born of Mary.
Mary, may l wait with you in joy and in patience and in hope.
From the Connections:
THE WORD:Advent begins at the end -- the promised return of Christ at the end of time. For the faithful disciple, history is a moving forward, a journey to the fulfillment of God’s reign when God’s Christ will return as Lord of all. We therefore live in a permanent state of Advent: watchfulness, preparation and perseverance as we await the return of the Holy One who has already come.
In his Gospel, Luke depicts our final judgment very simply: “to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke infers that our “judgment” before Christ will be a moment of illuminating truth, when all artifice will melt away, when our rationalizations will fail us, when we will see our holiness and face our failures. But rather than make us tremble, the prospect of standing before Jesus should fill us with hope: that the “shoot of Jesse” comes to redeem us despite ourselves, that, in him, God loves us in our holiest moments and our most glaring sinfulness.
HOMILY POINTS:Jesus calls us to pay attention to the “signs” of God’s Advent presence, to “stand erect and raise our heads” to realize God’s presence in our midst.
The moments we are given in this experience of life are precious and few. God gives us these days in order that we might come to discover him and know him in the love of others and the goodness of this world in anticipation of the next.
Our lives are a continuing Advent in which we make our way to God by creating a road for that journey, a road built of justice, forgiveness and love.
SignsSigns: Meteorologists watch a storm form in the middle of the Southern Atlantic. They begin plotting the storm’s course, feeding data into their computers. The computers then develop possible paths the storm may take and the impact it could have in communities along the Eastern Seaboard. Warnings are issued — and people begin to get ready for dangerous storms with disarmingly charming names like Sandy.
Signs: Your son or daughter’s mood has changed. Your usually happy child is quiet, sullen, impatient, angry. Typical teenage angst — or is something deeper, more dangerous going on?
Signs: At your annual check-up, the doctor sits you down. He’s concerned about the numbers on your chart. He doesn’t mince his words: You’re over forty; you can’t eat like a teenager anymore.
Throughout our lives, we encounter “signs”: indicators of realities we do not readily see or understand or appreciate — or would rather ignore altogether. These “signs” urge us to look deeper, to see beyond our selves, to confront issues before they become disasters. On this First Sunday of Advent, Jesus calls us to pay attention to the many “signs” of God’s love in the midst of every trial and challenge we encounter. God’s Spirit of humility and wisdom enables us to realize God’s saving work in the Advent of our lives. These four weeks are a microcosm of the Advent that is the very entirety of our lives as Christians: to make ourselves ready to “stand before the Son of Man” through lives of love, mercy and justice.
Fr. Jude Botelho:
We ended the liturgical year listening to readings with an apocalyptic description of the end of the world. We begin the new season of Advent with similar apocalyptic warnings. Again the purpose is not to frighten us but to fill us with hope. The prophet Jeremiah starts with the reiteration of the proclamation of the promise of the Lord. "The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah." Faith means accepting what God speaks and offers, rather than what human beings like and choose. Hope means trusting and accepting what God promises in Jesus Christ. Hence conversion is integral to responding to the word of God.
Missing the signal!
In its day, the Titanic was the world's largest ship, weighing 46,328 tons and it was considered unsinkable. Yet late during the night of April 14-15, 1912, the unthinkable happened to the unsinkable. Near midnight, the great Titanic struck an iceberg, ripping a three hundred foot hole through five of its sixteen watertight compartments. It sank in two and a half hours killing 1,513 people. Before the Titanic sank, warning after warning had been sent to tell the crew that they were speeding into an ice field, but the messages were ignored. In fact, when a nearby ship sent an urgent warning, the Titanic was talking to Cape Race about the time the chauffeurs were to meet arriving passengers at the dock in New York, and what dinner menus were to be ready. Preoccupied with the trivia, the Titanic responded to the warning, "Shut up. I am talking to Cape Race. You are jamming my signals!" Why did so many die that night? Perhaps the crew disregarded the danger of the weather; there were not enough lifeboats on board; and the radio operator of nearby California was off duty; perhaps those responsible did not heed the warnings, they were preoccupied with other things! -Sometimes we believe that our 'ship' is unsinkable, our life is all well planned, and the unthinkable can never happen to us. We need to read the signs of the time, we need to pay attention to the warning signals. But if we are preoccupied with the trivial things of life we will miss the most important till it is too late.
In the Gospel Luke has Jesus using the same apocalyptic language when he speaks of his return in glory. "There will be signs in the heavens and on earth distress and confusion." Those who do not believe will be frightened by these signs and portents. For those who have no faith the signs can only spell doom and destruction, they are seen as the punishment of God. But those who are believers have nothing to fear for these signs, trials and troubles point to the coming of the Lord. He is near. True Christian prayer is the typical Advent invocation, 'Thy Kingdom Come', which is rightly translated as 'Come Lord Jesus Come.' Though the coming of the Lord is as certain as the dawn, yet if we are not ready, if we are not vigilant, we will miss the Lord. "Be on your guard, so that your hearts are not preoccupied with other things. Be alert at all times and pray." The Gospel of Luke, which is characterized by a strong interest in prayer, urges us to pray in the context of the end of history. Advent speaks to us of an order of being an existence that is beyond a natural outlook of life. While the faithless say: "Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die", while skeptics affirm: "this is all there is to life". Advent reminds us that this world is not all there is and so we pray for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will help us to look beyond to the Kingdom, while we wait with joyful hope for its realization here on earth and in the next.
There is an old Hasidic tale about Rabbi Naftali. It was the custom of the rich men of his city, whose homes were on the outskirts and sort of isolated, to hire men to watch over their property at night. Late one evening, as was his custom, Rabbi Naftali went out for a walk and met one such watchman walking back and forth. The Rabbi asked, "For whom do you work?" The guard told the rabbi who had hired him and then the guard inquired, "And for whom do you work Rabbi?" The watchman's words struck at the heart of the Rabbi, who replied, "I am not sure whether I work for anyone or not." The rabbi walked along with the watchman for some time in silence. Then he asked, "Will you come and work for me?" "Oh Rabbi, I should be honoured to be your servant," said the watchman, "but what would be my duties?" Rabbi Naftali answered quietly, "To keep reminding me with that question." Like that rabbi, we need help if we are to remember for whom we work and for what we live our lives. Advent helps us to ask that question of ourselves. 'Watch and pray' are the lookouts, they remind us that God is in charge.
Are we waiting?
"In his book 'Man's Search for Meaning', Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl tells the story of how he survived the atrocities of the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Frankl says one of the worst sufferings at Auschwitz was waiting: waiting for the war to end, waiting for an uncertain date of release and waiting for death to end the agony. This waiting caused some prisoners to lose sight of future goals, to let go of their grip on present realities and give up the struggle. This same waiting made others like Frankl accept it as a challenge, as a test to their inner strength and a chance to discover deeper dimensions of freedom."
Waiting to be rescued
One December day, 16-year-old Gary Schneider and two friends set out on a four-day climb up Mt. Hood. Nine thousand feet up, a blinding storm engulfed the three boys. Soon the snow was drifting over their heads. They tunneled into a snow bank to get out of the driving wind and to wait out the blizzard. Eleven days later the blizzard continued to rage. The boys’ sleeping bags grew wet and lumpy. Their food supply dwindled to a daily ration of two spoonfuls of pancake batter apiece. Their sole comfort was a small Bible one of the boys had packed in his gear. The boys took turns reading it, eight hours a day. It was an eerie scene: three teenage boys propped up on elbows in sleeping bags in a five-foot square cave of snow. The only light was a spooky, reflected light coming from the cave's tiny opening. There the three boys remained huddled hour after hour, day after day, listening to the word of God against a background of howling wind. If rescue came it would have to come from God. Waiting like this was not easy. All the boys could do was pray, hoping the blizzard would blow itself out and help would come. Finally, on the 16th day the weather cleared and the boys crawled out of their snow cave. They were weak from the ordeal and could manage only a few steps at a time. Later that day they caught sight of a rescue party. Their long ordeal of waiting had finally ended.
Mark Link - Illustrated Sunday Homilies
It is a fact that we do not wait very well. A story is told of a photographer taking a picture. He says to the woman, "Smile pretty for the camera." A moment later, "OK, madam, you can resume your usual face." Whether you and I will have a successful Advent these next four weeks will depend on the attitude or the face we bring to it today. We must stay awake and watch, as Jesus advises us in today's Gospel. If affirmative, this first week in a fresh Liturgical year might quite literally alter our lives. The truth is all of us are waiting. Especially, during Advent we are waiting in two ways! First, as our ancestors did, we are waiting for Jesus' birth. Secondly, as the early Church did, we continue the waiting for Jesus' second coming. During this period of waiting we are called to be vigilant.
John Pichappilly in 'The Table of the Word'
A drunkard was staggering down the street with blisters on both ears."What caused those blisters on both ears?" asked a friend. "My wife left her hot iron near the phone; so when the phone rang, I picked up the iron by mistake," explained the drunkard. "Okay, but how about the other ear?" continued the friend. "That fool phoned a second time!"
Francis Gonsalves in 'Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds'
For whom are you waiting?
A young lady was walking through the park, when she became conscious of footsteps behind her. She hastened her step, only to become aware that the person behind had begun to walk faster also. Obviously, she was quite worried, and decided to face the situation head-on. She turned around to discover a young man walking briskly behind her. She asked him if he were following her, and if so, why? The young man was embarrassed, as he began to explain why he was doing what he was. He told her that he had noticed her pass this way every day, that he had become infatuated by her, and that he just wanted to meet her. The woman remained silent, while the young man poured out his heart about how much he loved her. Retaining her composure, the young woman said, "My sister is much prettier than I am, and she is coming up there behind you." The young man turned quickly, only to discover that there was no one coming. "You are only making a fool of me" he said. "There is no one coming behind me." The young woman replied very calmly "Yet you looked around! If you loved me as you said you did, you would not have looked around to see my younger sister!"
Jack McArdle in 'And that's the Gospel truth!'
From Fr. Tony Kadavil and Sermons.com
1) A. J. Gordon was the great Baptist pastor of the Clarendon Church in Boston, Massachusetts. One day he met a young boy in front of the sanctuary carrying a rusty cage in which several birds fluttered nervously. Gordon inquired, "Son, where did you get those birds?" The boy replied, "I trapped them out in the field." "What are you going to do with them?" "I'm going to play with them, and then I guess I'll just feed them to an old cat we have at home." When Gordon offered to buy them, the lad exclaimed, "Mister, you don't want them, they're just little old wild birds and can't sing very well." Gordon replied, "I'll give you $2 for the cage and the birds." "Okay, it's a deal, but you're making a bad bargain." The exchange was made and the boy went away whistling, happy with his shiny coins. Gordon walked around to the back of the church property, opened the door of the small wire coop, and let the struggling creatures soar into the blue. The next Sunday he took the empty cage into the pulpit and used it to illustrate his sermon about Christ's coming to seek and to save the lost -- paying for them with His own precious blood. "That boy told me the birds were not songsters," said Gordon, "but when I released them and they winged their way heavenward, it seemed to me they were singing, 'Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!'"
2) Jesus came to save humans from being rat packs feeding on each other instead of sheep feeding with each other. This was never made so clear than in the recent "Black Friday" images of people stomping on each other and fighting it out, all done to the musical background of Christmas music.
Our sentimental - yet always cynical - culture likes to start singing Christmas carols the moment Thanksgiving turkeys come out of the oven. But listen carefully: You're hearing a lot more choruses of "Jingle Bells" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" than carols like "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" or "O Little Town of Bethlehem." The world wants, the world needs, to celebrate Christmas. But the world does its best to keep Jesus out of it.
Perhaps the first "Christmas carol" Christians should sing, in keeping with the theme of "Advent," is the Willie Nelson special "On the Road Again." As stores keep having cut-rate sales and on-line deals; and as holiday partying, parades, and posturing swamp every level of our lives: it is good to stand back and look at the bigger picture. What is the purpose for which Jesus came into this world in the first place?
3) Wait and Watch
Our text concludes with the counsel, "When these things come to pass, stand up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near." That's been the experience of Christians for all these years. Whether they are in exodus, or in exile, we are not alone.
Our four year old grandson has provided me a wonderful illustration of this. His mother was going to go away for a couple of days. The night before she left, as she was in the two boys' room to hear their prayers, she told them she was going to go away, and asked if in their prayers they would like to ask God to protect her on her journey.
Jesse, the six year old, thought not. But Luke, the four year old, prayed this prayer: "Dear God, if buffaloes or bears, or other mean animals, come near mommy, can you handle it? If you can't, just call on Jesus."
Luke attends a Nazarene preschool. I suspect that is where he got he got that accent. But the words are universally Christian. There is a new covenant now, a new promise, since Christmas, that he will be with us, "Lo, I am with you always till the end of the age." That's our hope. There is a way of living with that hope. It is found in two words that are always associated with Advent: wait, and watch.
Mark Trotter, Collected Sermons, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
4) An Advent Promise: Goodness and Mercy Will Win
As some of you know, Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor of New York during the Depression, and he was quite a character. He would ride the city fire trucks, take entire orphanages to baseball games and whenever the city newspapers went on strike, he would get on the radio and read the Sunday "funnies" to the children.
At any rate, one bitter cold winter's night in 1935, Mayor LaGuardia turned up in a night court that served the poorest ward in the city, dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. After he heard a few cases, a tattered old woman was brought before him, accused of stealing a loaf of bread.
She told LaGuardia that her daughter's husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick and her grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, insisted on pressing charges. "My store is in a very bad neighborhood, your honor," he said. "She's got to be punished in order to teach other people a lesson."
The mayor sighed. He turned to the old woman and said, "I've got to punish you," he said. "The law makes no exception - ten dollars or ten days in jail."
But even as he spoke, LaGuardia was reaching into his pocket and pulling out a ten dollar bill. "Here is the woman's fine," he said, "and furthermore, I'm going to fine everyone in this court room fifty cents for living in a city where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant."
The following day, the New York Times reported that $47.50 was turned over to the bewildered old woman. It was given by the red-faced store owner, some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations and city policemen - and they all gave their mayor a standing ovation as they handed over their money.
That's how it will be with God's world. Just when it seems that all hope is lost, and goodness and mercy shall never win, the Great Judge will come to set things right, deciding for the hungry and the meek of the earth. Yes, there is also an Advent promise for the nations of the world in perplexity and distress: "Look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Erskine White, Together in Christ, CSS Publishing Company
5) When the Play Is Over
C. S. Lewis said that when the author appears on the stage, you know the play is over. This is how he understands the doctrine of the Second Coming of our Lord. It means that he who has begun a good work will bring it to the best conclusion of which he is capable. After all, no one has ever claimed that this planet earth was intended to exist forever. In what is called by scientists "the second law of thermodynamics," it is clearly predicted that the energy supply of this planet will eventually come to an end, which means that a conclusion of life as we know it here is inevitable. The concept of the Second Coming merely affirms that such a conclusion will be purposeful. The drama of history is not going to just fizzle out or end in a whimper! It is going to come to the kind of climax that he who conceived the drama wants for it.
Gary L. Carver and Tom M. Garrison,
5) When Everything Becomes "Merely"
Virginia Owens in her book, And The Trees Clap Their Hands, suggests that we lose the wonder of it all, because along the way everything becomes "merely." Things are "merely" stars, sunset, rain, flowers, and mountains. Their connection with God's creation is lost. During this Advent season many things are just "merely." It becomes "merely" Bethlehem, a stable, a birth -- we have no feeling of wonder or mystery. That is what familiarity can do to us over the years.
Owens goes on to say that it is this "merely" quality of things that leads to crime. It is "merely" a thing -- I'll take it. It is "merely" an object -- I'll destroy it. It is this "merely" quality of things and life that leads to war. We shall lose "merely" a few thousand men, but it will be worth it. Within the Advent narrative nothing is "merely." Things are not "merely" things, but are part of God's grand design. Common things, such as motherhood, a birth, a child, now have new meaning. This is not "merely" the world, but a world that is charged with the beauty and grandeur of God's design. It is a world so loved by God that God gave his only Son. What is so great about the Advent season is that everything appears charged with the beauty and grandeur of God.
John A. Stroman, God's Downward Mobility, CSS Publishing.
6) Exchanging Our Eschatological Heritage
Neill Hamilton, who taught at Drew University for many years, once observed how people in our time lose hope for the future. It happens whenever we let our culture call the shots on how the world is going to end. At this stage of technological advancement, the only way the culture can make sense of the future is through the picture of everything blowing up in a nuclear holocaust. The world cannot know what we know, that everything has changed in the death and resurrection of Jesus, that the same Christ is coming to judge the world and give birth to a new creation. And so, people lose hope. As Hamilton puts it: This substitution of an image of nuclear holocaust for the coming of Christ is a parable of what happens to Christians when they cease to believe in their own eschatological heritage. The culture supplies its own images for the end when we default by ceasing to believe in biblical images of God's triumph at the end.
The good news of the gospel is this: when all is said and done, God is going to win.
William G. Carter, No Box Seats in the Kingdom, CSS Publishing.
7) Sound Theology
In the Peanuts comic strip, Linus and Lucy are standing at the window looking out at the rain falling. Lucy says to Linus, "Boy, look at it rain...What if it floods the earth?" Linus, the resident biblical scholar for the Peanuts, answers, "It will never do that...in the ninth chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow." With a smile on her face, Lucy replies, "Linus, you've taken a great load off my mind." To which Linus responds, "Sound theology has a way of doing that."
Charles Schultz, Peanuts, adapted by David E. Leininger
___________________________8) Second Coming and Faithfulness
During his 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy often closed his speeches with the story of Colonel Davenport, the Speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives: On May 19th, 1780 the sky of Hartford darkened ominously, and some of the representatives, glancing out the windows, feared the end was at hand. Quelling a clamor for immediate adjournment, Davenport rose and said, "The Day of Judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. Therefore, I wish that candles be brought." Rather than fearing what is to come, we are to be faithful till Christ returns. Instead of fearing the dark, we're to be lights as we watch and wait.
9) Preparation for Christ's Coming
Maybe you've heard the story of the little boy who decided to write a letter to God one Christmas. He started out by writing: "Dear God, I've been a really good boy this year." Unfortunately, he remembered that God was all knowing and all seeing and he decided that he couldn't lie to God. So, he crumpled up that letter and started over. This time he wrote: "Dear God, I know I haven't done everything I should have, but I really tried to be good." He stopped and crumpled up that letter, too. It was obvious that he was struggling with what to write to God.
As he sat there thinking he looked up and saw his mother's favorite piece of sculpture on the mantel. It was a beautiful rendition of the Madonna, the mother of Christ. The boy perked up and ran out of the room. He came back with a towel and a shoebox. He walked over, carefully picked up the Madonna, gently wrapped it in the towel, carefully put it in the shoebox and then hid it in the closet. He immediately went back to the table and wrote: "Dear God, if you ever want to see your mother again . . ."
It's time the Church took back Christmas. And we do. Every year we take it back and bring back the meaning and the purpose. The world tries to hold it for ransom each year, with its multiplicity of gadgets and this year's list of must have toys; the world tries to make demands and hold Christmas for ransom but it never works. The birth of the Christ child is just too powerful, even for Wall Street. The sight and the sounds and the remembrance of this child born so long ago changes all the rules. His very presence makes the glitter of our Christmas presents pale in comparison.
Billy D. Strayhorn, Stay On Your Toes
10) “Watch the road.”
There is a beautiful anecdote given by Msgr. Arthur Tonne clarifying the message of today’s gospel. Several years ago a bus driver in Oklahoma reached an unusual record. In 23 years he had driven a bus over 900,000 miles without a single accident. When asked how he had done it, he gave this simple answer: “Watch the road.” In today’s gospel Jesus gives the same advice in several ways: “Be vigilant at all times,” “Stand erect,” “Raise your heads,” “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy.” This is not only a good spiritual advice for the Advent season but also a safe rule for daily life. A good football player or basketball player should always concentrate his attention on the ball and the players. A good student must be alert, awake and attentive, watching the teacher and listening to his or her words. A good Catholic in the Church must be physically and mentally alert, watching the altar and actively participating in the prayers and songs. Like the Roman god Janus, who had two faces, one looking at the past year and the other looking into future, Christians during the Advent season are to look at the past event of the first coming of Jesus into the world and expectantly look forward to his second coming in glory.
11) Be patient; be faithful:
Be faithful. Remember Albert Einstein’s words after the Second World War: “As a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration for it, because the Church alone has had the courage to stand for intellectual truth, and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once despised, now I praise unreservedly.” We are Christ’s body in the world today. Be patient. Be faithful. It is the message of today’s gospel and Advent.
12) Would we keep arranging deckchairs on a sinking ship?
On the night of April 15th 1912, the Titanic hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank. Over 1,500 people lost their lives in one of the worst sea disasters in history. A few years ago a magazine recalled the great disaster and asked its readers this shocking –almost blasphemous question: “If we’d been on the Titanic when it sank, would we have arranged the deckchairs?” At first we say to ourselves, “What a ridiculous question! No one in his right mind would ignore wailing sirens on a sinking ship and rearrange its deck chairs! No one with an ounce of sanity would ignore the shouts of drowning people and keep arranging deck chairs!” But as we continue to read the magazine, we see the reason for the strange question. And suddenly we ask ourselves, “Are we perhaps, rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship? For example, are we so caught up with material things in life that we are giving a back seat to spiritual things? Are we so busy making a living that we are forgetting the purpose of life? Are we so taken up with life that we are forgetting why God gave us life?” (Mark Link in ‘Sunday Liturgies’).
13) Who came up with this?
A woman was in the mall doing her Christmas shopping. She was tired of walking through every aisle of every store to find just the right present. She was stressed out by the mounting debt on her credit card. She was tired of fighting the crowds and standing in lines for the registers. Her hands were full and when the elevator door opened, it was full. “Great!” she muttered and the occupants of the elevator, feeling her pain, graciously tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load.
As the doors closed she blurted out, “I think whoever came up with this Christmas junk ought to be found, strung up and shot!” A few others shook their heads or grunted in agreement. Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator came a single voice that said, “Don’t worry. They already crucified him.”
14) Sign on a church bulletin board:
"Merry Christmas to our Christian friends. Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends. And to our atheist friends, good luck.
15) “We don’t have time for that!”
Typical of last-minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from store to store. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her three-year-old son was no longer clutched in hers. In panic she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flat against a frosty window. He was gazing at a manger scene. Hearing his mother’s near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee: "Look Mommy! It’s Jesus - Baby Jesus in the hay!” With obvious indifference to his joy and wonder, she impatiently jerked him away saying, "We don’t have time for that!"
16)”But with a good ship, you can always ride it out.”
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once told of encountering a hurricane while on a cruise in the Atlantic. After the captain managed to sail around the danger, he and Dr. Peale were visiting with one another. The captain said he had always lived by a simple philosophy namely that if the sea is smooth, it will get rough; and if it is rough, it will get smooth. He added something worth remembering: “But with a good ship,” the Captain said, “you can always ride it out.” Our ship is our Faith in Christ. With a good ship, you can always ride it out. Life is unpredictable. God is with us. "But not a hair of your head will perish," Jesus says, "By your endurance you will gain your