This Sunday is the 1st Sunday in Advent. Advent is a time of waiting for Christ, allowing Jesus to be reborn in our lives. It is also a time for purifying our hearts by repentance and for renewing our lives by reflecting on and experiencing the several comings (advents) of Christ into our lives. Besides coming into our world through birth, Jesus comes into our lives as we live them through His Church, its Sacraments (especially the Eucharist), the Word of God, the worshipping community, as we die, and finally, in His Second Coming
Our lectionary readings for this weekend illustrate this theme of waiting. In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah waits and hopes for an ideal descendant of King David Who, as Messiah of God, will bring security, peace, and justice to God’s people. Christians believe that Jeremiah’s waiting and hoping to have been fulfilled in Jesus. Jeremiah’s prophecy assures us that the Lord, our Justice will fulfil His promises, and, hence, we need not be afraid.
The Psalmist expresses the central idea of patient, vigilant, prayerful waiting for the Lord in today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 25), praying, “Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your Truth and teach me for You are God, my Saviour.” In the second reading, Paul urges the Thessalonians to continue and intensify the life of holiness and mutual love he has taught them as they wait for “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.”
Today we move to the year of Luke (Cycle C). The Gospel today is Luke’s version of the Gospel that we read two weeks’ ago from Mark. It concerns the end times and the second coming of Christ. The early Christians believed that the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple would be the precursor to the triumph return of Jesus. When Jerusalem fell in AD70 and Christ did not return, a crisis of faith emerged amongst the early Christians, with many turning away from their faith. This was the context for the time when Luke wrote his Gospel which is believed to have been about AD80.
The message was a plea to the early Church members to remain faithful to Christ. Luke advised his readers on how they should wait and prepare for the return of the Lord. They should remain vigilant and dedicate themselves to prayer and service. The Gospel records the signs which would precede Jesus’ Second Coming, but also includes Jesus’ warning to be ‘on guard against descending into debauchery and drunkenness’, as well as praying always to be able to stand in confidence before the Son of Man. Advent is a time to contemplate Jesus’ coming in the flesh as well as His Second coming. Advent is also a time when we should open ourselves to the Lord’s coming into our lives. Advent allows us to repent of our sins and to improve our lives. Luke reminds us to trust in Jesus amid the tragedies that sometimes occur in our lives. It is then that we are encouraged to ‘Stand up, raise your heads, because your salvation is near’.
Let us remember the words of Alexander Pope: ‘What does it profit me if Jesus is reborn in thousands of cribs all over the world and not reborn in my heart?” Jesus must be reborn in our hearts and lives, during this season of Advent and every day of our lives, in our love, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness.