First Sunday of Advent
The ancient Christian community lived constantly with the feeling that the Last Day, the Second Coming of Christ, might be coming the next morning. They lived in a constant state of alert. After several centuries, the Church gradually established a liturgical season that would emphasize to the whole believing community that they should be ready all year round for the 2nd Coming. They called the season Advent (=Coming). Later in our tradition, the season of Advent was placed before the feast of Christmas because it was judged fitting to remind Christians about the second Coming before the celebration of the First Coming.
Today we begin the Season of Advent, which signals a new liturgical year. We begin a new cycle of readings and reflections concerning the whole mystery of Christ. Neither we nor our world are quite the same as we were three years ago when today’s readings were last proclaimed. Once again, as if were the first time, we are about to hear the texts which urge us to be attentive to the signs of the times, and to recognize how God’s Spirit is moving to transform them.
The Advent is a period of preparation to commemorate once again the coming of Christ into the world. It leads to Christmas Season. Both seasons were always viewed as the time during which Christians celebrated Christ’s coming among us to banish the fear of darkness, to overthrow death, and to lead us to new light and life. Although both Advent and Christmas look to the past and to the future, they focus on the very real here-and-now in which you and I live with all of humanity on this planet. If God’s word is to be incarnate at Christmas, it will be so in and through people of faith who are willing to be fully awake and ready to cooperate.
Actually, the Church sees the coming of Christ in three phases: 1) his physical coming in Bethlehem; 2) his daily coming among us through Church, sacraments and neighbor, and 3) his second coming in final judgment. This final phase, this eschatological expectation of Jesus’ second coming is emphsized in the liturgy of this First Sunday of Advent. And it is also evident in the liturgy till December 16. From December 17 onward, the focus is on celebrating the anniversary of the Birth of Christ. And Christmas celebrates that coming in time, the historical coming of the One who altered all time forever.
This First Sunday of Advent warns us to be watchful and alert, for the Lord will surely come like a thief in the night. Now the alert person is also a person of action. While Christians wait for the coming of the Son of Man, a moment known only to the Father, they are to busy themselves creating instruments of peace out of instruments of war. The time of God’s visitation requires us to break with the past reign of sin. We must live in a new way. We ought to live each day with a hopeful expectation of and receptivity to God’s coming. The celebration of Jesus’ first coming as Savior should keep our hearts focused on his return as Judge.