It is not unusual that every age believes it is facing the worst of times. When we think back to the days of Socrates, he complained about the youth of his day, how they didn’t show respect, and seem to be directionless. Picking up the newspaper, or watching television, we too seek challenging events that cause us to question our faith, and whether or not God is truly present in our world. In fact, in the face of such difficulties and horrible events, if me difficult for a believer to remain optimistic in God’s life-giving power.
It should not surprise us then, that Jesus himself refers to difficult events when speaking to his disciples. In describing his ultimate second coming, Jesus refers to a world with numerous signs causing such fear among the people that they will die of fright. It is not difficult to imagine such situations. We can consider a person the recent diagnosis of cancer perhaps experiencing such fear. Or when we consider areas of violence like serious, or Iraq, or Afghanistan, we could certainly understand if people experienced fear in such a measure that they could die of fright. Each of us has probably had an experience where we have found ourselves so afraid that we run the risk of getting into despair.
It might seem odd then, that we begin the liturgical year with such an ominous reflection. But we begin by being reminded of two significant purposes of the celebration of Advent. First, in these days, we prepare ourselves for the ultimate coming of Christ at the end of the world. Jesus reminds us, that while such a day may be a source of fear for the unbeliever, for those of us who believe the second coming of Jesus is our entry into glory. Perhaps more specifically, the second coming is an invitation for us to be open to the coming of Christ in our daily life. Just as people without hope or without faith might get into the ultimate despair that becomes present in a world filled with suffering, so too can we. part of this reflecting on the end of the world, should cause us to seek The recognition that Jesus continues to commit to our lives each and every day. The second purpose of Advent, which we begin to focus on in a significant way after December 17, is the commemoration of the incarnation of Christ.
The Incarnation reminds us of the source of our hope, in the first reading spelled out this promise. Hopefully each one of us in the midst of our faith and in the midst of our lives has had the experience of the support provided by loving and caring community of faith. While it is never easy to mourn the loss of a loved one in death, hopefully we experience in the care and concern of others a tangible experience of God’s love for each one of us. As people made in the image and likeness of God, we are challenged to be the signs of God’s presence in the world. While we don’t make God present, after all God is infinite, we do provide a witness that we believe that in the power of God’s love to transform the world.
Jesus reminds us the season of Advent is a time for us to be awake and vigilant, so that we do not miss the presence of God all around us. St. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians challenges us to make the love of God about allowing people to be more disposed to seeing God’s love in their own lives, by our witness. Perhaps most importantly, first reading reminds us that we have a God who is faithful in keeping promises. This promise of God’s love, however, is so important that we call it to mind each year less difficult events of our lives cause us to forget.
When we gather here each Sunday, it is a concrete reminder to one another about the power of God’s love. Over the course of this is liturgical year of grace, there will be times when we will, as powerful witnesses, be people convinced the eternal life God promises to each one of us. On other days, we might wonder whether or not God is present, and so we come to this church community seeking to be strengthened by the actions of God and the witness of one another, who witness to us the power of God’s faith. and so we begin this year recognizing that we are called both to give the witness of faith and to receive the witness of faith.
More than anything else, this first Sunday of Advent reminds us of two different types of time. God makes both holy. In fact the Greeks had two words for our English word of time. But most of us think about when we hear the word time is signified by the Greek word chronos. It is the type of time that is marked by watches and calendars.the Greeks understood that not all time to me signified in this way. But there are other moments in our lives that call for different accounting of time. We get a small glimpse of this when we say I cannot believe how fast time went by, as when a parent reflects on how quickly 18 years went by on the occasion of a high school graduation. God too, has a concept of time like this. It is best described as those times when God is ready, signified by the Greek word kairos.
The invitation of this first Sunday of Advent is for each one of us to seek the vigilance and awareness that enables us to experience most fully the presence of God in these moments of readiness. We pray this Sunday but our love may increase just as our awareness of God’s presence become stronger.