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Homily for first Sunday of Advent year A

25 Nov 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

advent-imageToday we begin the Advent season, the season of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. The word “advent” is from the Latin word “adventus,” meaning “coming.” Advent is a season of expectation, anticipation, and a season of waiting in hope.

In our first reading this morning, the prophet Isaiah saw in a vision the days to come when the mountain of the Temple of the Lord shall tower above the mountains, and he calls us all to go up to that mountain. It is a vision about hope for the people of Israel, a vision of salvation the people must look forward to, and a vision of the coming of Christ as a man. St. Paul tells us in our second reading that the time has come; the time has come not to wait in darkness and fear but to arm ourselves as children of light to receive Christ the Lord. That is what the advent season is all about, preparation to receive Christ.

We are all called to be part of this preparation, to wait in hope. But I tell you this morning that there is danger in this waiting. Many Christians may focus their attention on the magi, the crib, and the birth of Christ. Yes, that is what the advent season is all about; that is what the Church asked us to do. To prepare, to wait in the hope to commemorate the birth of Christ at Christmas. It is a beautiful season with a beautiful liturgy we must appreciate. But the danger is there for many people to wait to the extent of forgetting the person they are waiting for, stay awake therefore because he is already at the door knocking. In our response to the Church’s call to prepare to commemorate our Lord Jesus Christ’s birth, we must keep in mind that our waiting is not for the baby Jesus. We are preparing to commemorate the mystery of the incarnation in anticipation of his second coming, and he is coming back as a judge. This waiting period may be dangerous to some few, but the truth remains as Henri Nouwen says; waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we hear about him for whom we are waiting.

The season of advent is another opportunity the Church offers us to re-examine our lives and make amends especially. We are called to fast and pray to celebrate Christmas in the purity of heart and the joy of the Lord. It is a call to let the faithfulness of God change our unfaithfulness, to let the commemoration of the mystery of the incarnation open the eyes of our faith to see how much God loves us. By understanding this unconditional love of God, we can confidently walk into the future that lies before us; we cannot sleep-walk into God’s presence. Advent season reminds us to stay awake in the spirit because the day of the Lord will be like the days of Noah, as Jesus says in our gospel passage this morning. For in those days before the flood, people waited in different ways. Some were eating, drinking, and taking wives. In the midst of this merriment, Noah, by the grace of God, was busy building the ark that would save him and his household.

The Old Testament’s ark was made of wood and built by man, but Jesus Christ has become for us the ark of the New Covenant. He is the one who is to lift us above every condemnation just as the wooden ark lifted Noah above the flood, for St. Paul says that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus ( Rom. 8:1 ). Therefore, we are called this special season not to be too busy to ignore the coming “flood” as the people did in the days of Noah, but to be ready to enter the ark built by God himself, Christ Jesus. The key to the ark is repentance. Let us, therefore, use the season of spiritual preparation to renew our commitments to serve God and follow him with all our hearts. It is my prayer that the grace of this advent season may help us celebrate Christmas in the purity of heart and lead us into the joyful presence of Christ the Lord when he comes with all his saints. Amen.