1st Sunday of Advent
I am an Advent Nazi. The friars did not know this when they elected me prior. But there it is. No Christmas carols before Dec 24th. No Christmas trees. No red, green, and white decorations. No little Santa Clauses pushing Advent back towards Thanksgiving. Advent is its own season, one deserving of our respect and attention! So, we wait. We prepare. And we anticipate. Christ is coming, but he's not here yet. What do we need to do while we wait? Isaiah says we are to walk in the light of the Lord. Paul says we must wake from sleep and throw off the works of darkness. And Jesus says we are to stay awake and prepare for his coming again. IOW, Advent is set to test us, to prove our readiness for the Final Judgment. Yes, we are looking forward to Christmas and the birth of the Christ Child. But we are also looking forward to The End, the last day, and our final test before the Just Judge. Are you ready to stand before him, account for your life, and hear his judgment? If not, you have four weeks, just 28 days, to get ready. Make the most of the time you have. Everyone's clock is ticking.
Brothers, sisters: I do not wait well. It is one of my many failings. At Kroger yesterday with Br. Bede, I got frustrated b/c they had one register open. There were four people with stuffed carts in front of us. I moved us over to the self-checkout and got even more frustrated b/c the wretched machine kept booping nonsense at us, requiring a cashier to correct it. After the third time the poor woman had to exorcise the demon-possessed computer, I said, “Y'all can't be making much money with these things.” She smiled nervously, giggled a little, and said nothing. I think she's probably used to impatient customers. So, I do not wait well. And if my ego were bigger or more deranged, I might come to believe that God invented Advent just to provoke me. But my ego isn't that big or deranged, so I'll have to make do with the Church's idea that Advent is a time to contemplate The Last Four Things and prepare for the coming again of Christ. To wit: if you didn't know already, you are going to die. So am I. We are in the world but not of it, just passing through, and we need to be ready to exit. As followers of Christ, our exit is nothing to fear. . .if we are ready. How do we get ready? By observing the 28 days of Advent and then treating the other 337 days of the year as off-season Advents.
We do this by walking in the light of the Lord. By waking from sleep and throwing off the works of darkness. By staying awake and preparing for his coming again. We wait in the light. Keeping ourselves fully exposed in the direct light of our Lord's glory. We shake ourselves away from the lies, the manipulations, the scheming of the Enemy and refuse to do his dirty work. We give no room in our hearts and minds to envy, pride, wrath, or greed. We do not allow ourselves to be seduced by compromise or vanity or selfishness. We treat everything we have and everything we are as God's eternal possessions and only ours for short time. We treat ourselves and one another as embodied instances of divine love, men and women who reveal the truth, goodness, and beauty of the Father just by living and breathing. We remain stubbornly, aggressively faithful to the Gospel handed down to us, and we wear ourselves out bearing witness to His mercy. And when we fail in our preparations, we turn again to Christ and receive his absolution. Yes, we are getting ready for the birth of Christ. Of course, we are! But we are also getting ready for our death. Jesus says, “...had [the master of the house] known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake.” But he didn't. And his house was broken.
Stay awake! Vigilance is exhausting. Always being on guard against the Enemy is exhausting. We need rest and refreshment. That's prayer. Prayer is the time God floods us with everything we need to remain alert. Prayer is the time we open ourselves to receive everything God has to give us. Prayer is our chance to praise Him and give Him thanks for His gifts. Shopping, cooking, decorating, entertaining – all exhausting. By the time Christmas arrives, we just want it over. So, don't start Christmas until Christmas. Take this season of preparation and prepare. Fortify, stock up, repair, and rest. You have 12 days after the 25th to celebrate Christ's birth. And you have 28 days – more than twice as long – to get right with God and prepare for your birth into eternal life. What I'm say here is this: become an Advent Nazi! Wait joyfully, wait peacefully for the coming of Christ. Then – when the time comes – go rejoicing to the House of the Lord!