1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Happy New Year! Or perhaps you think I am a bit confused with this greeting…but in reality, the First Sunday of Advent marks the first day of the Church’s new liturgical year. These next four weeks are meant to be weeks of intense prayer and longing for the joyful return of our Savior Jesus Christ. So why do the Church’s readings this first day of Advent focus on the end of the world? Why is the Church being, to use the vernacular, "such a party pooper"???
Most people, even some Christians, think of the days leading up to Christmas as simply a time which reaches its climax on December 25th, the day Christians celebrate the historic birth of Jesus, God in the Flesh. The time is often marked by a succession of parties and gift-giving which truly lighten both mind and spirit – a time of joyful celebration! And while there is nothing wrong with parties or gift-giving, Catholics know that there is much more to Advent then just the celebration of a historic person’s birthday, even if that person was God. The other element that is often missing in secular society is the element of intense longing – longing for the coming again of our Savior Jesus the Christ. And yes, this second coming is meant to be joyful!
For the faithful, Advent is not just a time to remember the wonderful event of God’s Son coming among us as a poor babe in Bethlehem. It is also a time to wait in anticipation for the Son’s second coming, not as a babe but as a ruler. This Jesus, this Christ, will make all things new and establish a Kingdom of Righteousness for all of the faithful. Therefore those of us who will be privileged to experience this coming again of our Lord have no need to fear, no need to run and hide, no need to stock up on supplies, but rather to welcome this Christ with joy and love in our hearts. My friends, this will truly be the apex of our existence, both as individuals as well as a species. That is why the Church’s focus today is on the end of time – not as a time of catastrophe, but rather as a time of our personal redemption as well as world transformation.
So Jesus tells us today, this first Sunday of Advent, not to go out and start digging a bomb shelter in our backyard or hoard a year’s worth of can goods or quit our jobs and sail around the world…no. Jesus tells us simply to be "vigilant," to "pray" and to "stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand."
Now that’s a reason to party!
Patrick Quinn ([email protected]) is the director of Planned Giving at the Passionist Development Office in Chicago.