Homily for the first Sunday of advent, year B

Today 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 reminds us that we have strayed from the way of the Lord and hardened our hearts against fearing him. Isaiah expressed this fact when ancient Israel returned from their land of exile, they became empty, their temple destroyed, and they were so far away from God. That is what happens when we stray from the ways of God; we become spiritually empty and become vulnerable to every form of intimidation. Ancient Israel strayed from the ways of God and was intimidated by the Babylonians, but their memories of what God had done and what he can do kept them spiritually alive. Even in their emptiness, Isaiah remembered the Lord’s name and said, Our Redeemer is your ancient name. He wished God would tear the heavens open and returned to them. They waited in hope; they prepared to be received back into God’s presence.

Today, we are all called to be part of that preparation, wait in hope, and wish God would tear the heavens open and come to us. As we wait, I must say 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 a long wait may make us forget who we wait for, so 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 dangerously tempting, 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 learn and specially re-examine our lives and make amends. 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, for 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 come unexpectedly, as Jesus says in our gospel reading this morning. He says, It is like a man traveling abroad, he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task, and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So, stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming. As we begin this wonderful season today, we pray to the Lord to help us stay awake to see him when he comes.

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as a pastor in two different parishes, he was a one-time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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