1st Sunday of Advent (November 27, 2016)

1st Sunday of Advent (November 27, 2016)

The other day I was looking for my “Keep Christ in Christmas” magnet thingy to put on my car, but I couldn’t find it.  I’m guessing it’s buried somewhere on the junkyard that is my office desk.  I tend to maintain that there’s not too much of import piled up there, though once in a while I’m proven wrong.  In any case, it is kind of a disaster.  And I got to thinking about the fact that maybe sometimes there are important things in life (maybe even the most important things) that can just get lost in the shuffle of our daily activity.

As we see in our 1st Reading, the great prophet Isaiah envisioned “the mountain of the Lord’s house…established as the highest mountain” and “all nations shall stream toward it” for learning and meaning and peace in a new future.  But we can be challenged, then, to ask ourselves if God and God’s “house” really is “the highest mountain” in our life—that which orients us.  Do we really “stream toward it” with all that we have; is every aspect of our lives fixed on that direction?

Today is Day 1 of a new liturgical/Church year as we begin the season of Advent.  An advent is a coming or an arrival, and our season of Advent is especially about preparing to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas, awaiting His coming again in glory, and, with that, being more mindful of the need to welcome Him more into our lives each day.  Yet despite the greatness of this liturgical season, the holiday season presents us with even more hurriedness and distractions than usual; more things that pile up on our daily activities, even though they’re nice things.  The hectic-ness of life can actually lull us to sleep in keeping our focus on Christ.  (And all these hours of darkness outside don’t help make us any less sleepy either.)  

So today we hear Jesus say, “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”  He reminds His disciples that the people in Noah’s time were going about their everyday lives—not necessarily all bad things—but with no idea of what was about to transpire.  We, who know the Lord’s promise to return in glory and lead us to the heavenly city, must be vigilant and prepared and expectant.  St. Paul, too, tells the Romans, “it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.  For our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”

Because all of this is part of the human condition, we can even see echoes of it sometimes in pop culture as well.  There’s a song by the band Twenty One Pilots about how after someone stole this guy’s car radio he didn’t have anything left to distract him from wrestling with his thoughts and feelings—some good, most not.  While a big part of him wishes he could just go to sleep and forget about it all, he does come to the conclusion that “It is faith and there's sleep / We need to pick one please because / Faith is to be awake / And to be awake is for us to think / And for us to think is to be alive” [“Car Radio”].  (I want apologize to Twenty One Pilots for what will undoubtedly be a lowering in their coolness factor by the fact that I’m familiar with them.)

But so you all don’t think I’ve totally lost it, we can put this together with a quote from another source, Pope St. John Paul the Great.  He said, “It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness. He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you. He is the beauty to which you are so attracted. It is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise. It is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life. It is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society.”

And so, dear brothers and sisters, even with all else that’s going on, may we have the grace to be able to refocus during this Advent season, to shake off our sleepiness, to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and “put on the armor of light”—to clothe ourselves/to cover ourselves in Christ and that light of Christ that dispels the darkness and worldliness that can surround us.  Isaiah, too, says, “come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”  We give thanks that the pilgrim way is actually illuminated for us by God: through His commandments and teachings; through Word and Sacrament; through our worship and prayer; through the call to live in holiness, righteousness, justice, mercy, charity, and peace.  “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”  May the Lord find us ready to receive Him.

And I suppose I need to go clean off my desk.