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 the 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. The ancient Israel strayed from the ways of God and were 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 name of the Lord and says, 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, to 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 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 us to wait to the extent of forgetting the person we 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 the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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 for his second coming, and he is coming back as judge. This period of waiting 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 in other to celebrate Christmas in purity of heart and in 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. It is by understanding this unconditional love of God that 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 travelling 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 the Lord to help us stay awake to see him when he comes.