First Sunday of Advent — November 30, 2014
One of the things that I realize more and more about myself, especially at this time of year, is that I can be very impatient! I just hate to have to wait, whether in traffic, or in a line at the grocery store or at the post office, or to get a table at a restaurant. I simply do not like having to wait for anything!
Yet, as we begin this new Church year, and the liturgical season of Advent, the Scriptures are all telling us today about waiting.
• In the first reading, taken from the Old Testament Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we hear Isaiah telling God in prayer: “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for Him.”
• In the second reading, taken from his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul tells his readers: “…you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
• And in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples (and all of us):
“Be watchful. Be alert. You do not know when the time I will come. You do not know when the lord of the house is coming. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: “Watch!”
These three readings clearly set the theme for today’s Liturgy and for the Advent Season which begins today on this the First Sunday of Advent: Waiting and Watching
We begin today four weeks of waiting and watching, as we prepare for
Christmas, when we will celebrate once again the birthday of Jesus, born in Bethlehem nearly two thousand years ago. As we begin Advent, then, this annual period of preparation for Christmas, the Scriptures invite us to learn to be more patient and to wait and watch for Jesus
I don’t think that I’m the only one who has some difficulty with this kind of waiting and watching. We all tend to want what we want right now, and we don’t like to wait for anything. Even when we pray, “Lord give me patience,” we tend to add, “and give it to me right now!”
So today, the Scriptures invite us to learn how to be patient, and how to wait and watch, by inviting us to identify:
• First, with the Chosen People of Israel (who waited for centuries for their Savior finally to be born);
• And then, with those early Christians who longed for their Risen Lord to return again in glory.
Once we realize that Advent is a time to identify with and learn from those faithful Jews who waited for their Savior, and with those early Christians who waited for Jesus to come again, then we can ask ourselves: “What should we be doing while we wait and watch for the Lord?”
Here, I suggest that while we wait and watch, we can:
• First: Get in touch with our expectations — with our hopes and our dreams — not just with our wants and desires, but with what we really and truly need to find happiness and fulfillment in life;
• Then: Realize that our expectations, our hopes and dreams, and our deepest needs can be perfectly satisfied and fulfilled only by God;
• And Finally: Let’s look for ways to satisfy and fulfill one another’s expectations, hopes and dreams, and deepest needs, as together we wait and watch for the Lord.
First: Getting in touch with our needs: As a kid, I was great at this part of my Christmas preparations. When I was really young, I would write letters to Santa Claus to tell him exactly what toys I wanted him to bring me on Christmas. Later, I would carefully go through the Sears Roebuck catalogue page by page, listing by name and catalogue number all of the things I wanted Mom and Dad to get for me. That was my “Christmas List,” the list of things I wanted for Christmas.
But what I wanted as a child was certainly not the same as what I really needed. I’m sorry to say that things like housing, and clothing, and food were nowhere to be found on my childhood Christmas lists. Neither were things like faith, and family and friendship.
Now, of course, I know better. But this Christmas Season can bring back the child in all of us, the child who still hasn’t really learned the difference between what we want and what we really need. As we begin this Advent Season, then, we might ask for the Lord’s help in recognizing the difference between our selfish personal desires, and our genuine human and spiritual needs.
What is it that we really and truly need in order to be better persons, better Christians, and better Catholics as we celebrate Christmas again this year? This is the first question which we might ask ourselves, as we wait and watch during this Advent Season.
And then, as we begin answering our question, we will realize that what we ultimately need to find happiness and fulfillment in life are not all of the latest things that we see advertised on television as this year’s best and most wanted Christmas presents. What we ultimately need in order to find happiness and fulfillment is the assurance of God’s saving presence in history, in our world, and in our lives today. And the assurance of his saving presence and help.
And a final question: Wil all of the Christmas parties that we organize and go to during this Christmas Season truly be opportunities for us to share with one another the joy that our faith in Jesus has brought into our lives and into our world?
The Advent Season always comes and goes by very quickly, so we have to “Watch Out!” lest we lose the opportunities we will have during this special time of the year:
• to share our faith with others,
• to respond generously to one another’s needs,
• and to experience and share with one another the great joy which Jesus’ saving presence has brought into our lives and into our world.