First Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
"Watch therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming."
"It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . ." These aren’t just catchy song lyrics. At this time of year, when we still have Thanksgiving leftovers in our fridge, the world has definitely gone Christmas crazy. The lights are up, trees are trimmed, presents were undoubtedly purchased over the weekend. I’m not pointing fingers. I like my Christmas preparations as well as the next guy. But this year, I am hoping to do it in the deeper spirit of recognizing what it is I am truly preparing for. (Here’s a hint, it’s not for the Christmas ham and the gifts under the tree).
The Latin root of the word "Advent" means "coming" or "arrival." And so, beginning today, we are preparing for the coming of the baby Jesus-Christ’s first coming. The birth of Christ is joyous, a time for great celebration. But in preparing for His birth, we must also prepare for His Passion, death and coming again. It’s kind of a package deal.
So it makes sense that today’s gospel is about preparedness. Several times in this short parable, Jesus warns "Be watchful! Be alert . . . May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping." There are many parables with similar themes throughout the gospels that caution believers to be ever ready for Christ’s return. I think I have always read this gospel with a bit of fear-be on guard! Be ready! Stop screwing around, He is coming when you least expect it! But, when I read it today, it strikes me that the whole point of the warning is so that we are not afraid.
If we are living our lives with the peace and grace of God, with dignity and integrity, we don’t need to be always looking over our shoulder and worrying about when we may be called to answer for our actions. Doesn’t this sound preferable to frantically trying to get out lives in order at the last possible second before we are to be held accountable?
And what should we do while we are waiting? Should we stand in judgment of our neighbors, point fingers, announce to the world why we are so great because we are keeping watch for our Lord? No. Christ has left us "each with his own work." That "work" may be raising a family, working for a wage, or mending relationships-most likely it is some complicated combination or variation of all such things. And of course, it will change with each new phase of our lives.
The good news is that we don’t have to do this alone. Jesus knows we will fail again and again. We won’t achieve perfection. We won’t be without sin. Our faith is actually our greatest asset in our readiness. With Christ on our side, we can find that peace and compassion to guide us.
Marlo Serritella is on staff at the Holy Cross Province Development Office in Chicago, Illinois.