First Sunday of Advent
Today we begin the Church’s liturgical year, which does not coincide with the normal calendar year. We tell time in a way that differs from the calculations of the world around us. The time frame of our lives is more than the motions of solar system. It is the full story of creation and redemption, especially as we have come to know that story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We begin today the season of Advent. The name of the season comes from a Latin word, adventus, which means “arrival,” or “solemn coming.” Thus, Advent is a season of expectation.
There is a triple expectation highlighted during this season: 1) Israel’s past expectation of the ONE who would deliver and restore the splendor of the kingdom of David. 2) Mary’s expectation of the birth of her son, Jesus. 3) The Church’s future expectation of the return of Jesus in the final days as “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Thus, The mood till December 16 is the scatological expectation of Jesus’ second coming. From Dec 17 onward, however, the focus is on celebrating the anniversary of his birth. Christmas celebrates that coming in time, the coming of the One who has altered all time forever ever since Christian tradition has also been included, in two aspects: a) The expectation of Christ’s constant coming every day into the our lives, and b) The expectation of the noment of our death, our judgment, the final time in one’s individual life.
The first three expectations dominate the liturgy of Advent, the season wich begins with the First Sunday. This Sunday’s readings center on the second coming of Christ at the end of history. The theme of watchful waiting dominates all readings. The remaining Sundays of Advent will give examples of what this watchful expectation should mean.
Today’s Gospel has only five verses, yet the words “ Stay Awake” are repeated four times. Jesus stresses this leitmotif in a parable about a landowner who travels abroad and places his servants in charge. They do not know when he will return. So they must tend to his affairs in watchful expectation of his return, that they will not be caught off guard. The application of the parable is that we have always to act and live as though the Second Coming were to occur at any moment.
Thus, the liturgical year begins emphasizing the end. Advent begins in the same way the Church year ends, stressing the need of to live our faith now. We must stay awake, praying always for “we know not the hour when the Son of Man will return.”
The parable refers principally to the return of Jesus at the end of time. The landowner who has gone on a journey is Jesus after his Ascension. He has established the Church and entrusted to his disciples the task of working for the salvation of the world. The members of the Church must maintain an attitude of active vigilance in preparation for the return of the Lord.
The parable applies also to us. We are told to remain wide-awake so that we might welcome the unforeseeable visits of the Lord, whether at the last moment of our earthly life, or in his ordinary grace, through his invitation to perform services to others constantly. Our concern must be to keep watching, always prepared for Christ’s return. We have the power to make it either joyful and happy, or fearful and terrifying. If we cooperate, God will strengthen us to the end, so that we will be blameless on the day of the Second Coming of Jesus.
Thus the celebration of Advent means that we share once more the longing for God’s coming and the conversion that prepared for it. It is a way of experiencing more and more fully how God comes to us in in the midst of our life. It is a time of intensely active preparation for an ever more intimate coming of the Lord to us.