1st sunday of advent
28th november 2021
Year B – Psalter Week 1
I was thinking recently how nice it is to have the four seasons in our year. I love, for example, the colours in the trees in autumn. Seasons are important in the life of the church also. As we begin this season of Advent, the focus of the church turns to the coming of Christ. We begin by looking forward to the Second Coming of Christ, and are reminded to ‘stay awake’ ready for when Jesus returns in power and glory to judge the living and the dead. This prospect is something to be feared by all who oppose God’s kingdom and is an invitation to repentance. For those of us who believe and live as disciples of Christ, however, his return is something to look forward to with joyful expectation. Then, as we move through Advent, the focus shifts to the peace and joy of the First Coming of Christ among us, when he was conceived of the Virgin Mary and born in Bethlehem.
The First and Second Comings of Christ are not two completely distinct events. The German theologian Karl Rahner argued that what we call the Second Coming is, in actual fact, the fulfillment of one coming of Christ and which is still in progress in our time. What Rahner was getting at here is that while Christ has already come to us at the Incarnation, his coming is not yet fully manifest in each of us, and not yet fully manifest in humankind as a whole. Or, in the words of the French Jesuit theologian, Cardinal Jean Daniélou, ‘just as Christ was born according to the flesh in Bethlehem of Judah, so must he be born according to the spirit in each of our souls.’
The season of Advent, then, is not just about waiting in hope and expectation for a Second Coming of Christ at a future date when his kingdom will be fully manifest. Nor is it simply about remembering Christ’s birth as a past event. Rather, it is about opening ourselves up anew, in hope and expectation, to Christ’s reign coming more powerfully in our lives now, and to taking the next step, whatever that may be, on our individual journeys of discipleship.
In the gospel Jesus tells the disciples to “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.” In the second reading, St. Paul urges the Christians at Thessalonica ‘to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants.’ In this season of Advent we can once again call upon the Holy Spirit to renew and refresh us in our faith, and to help us to welcome Jesus more fully into our lives, our homes, and our workplaces. We can pray that our focus be that bit more on the Lord, and that bit less on the distractions of this passing world. We can pray daily: ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’
1 thessalonians 3:12-4:2
luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Let us see, O Lord, your mercy and give us your saving help.