Isaiah 2:1-5 Psalm 122 Romans 13:11-14 Matthew 24:36-44
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Advent is here, Christmas is just around the corner. We often hear that statement and say to ourselves “What ! Where did the year go ? It seems it was Canadian Thanksgiving just yesterday !” It’s true we look with regret and surprise at how fast time flies by. But, if you were going to some place special you would be welcoming the time passing quickly; although when you want it to it doesn’t, and when you don’t want it to, it does. It’s all a matter of perception.
The Israelites according to Isaiah were eager to indeed visit a special place, they said “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” The Psalmist makes the same call. The effort of the journey was of no consequence, an adventure was at hand, they were going to God’s house and they were going to better themselves. I invite you, even though you may have made this Advent journey many times before, to look on our journey to Christmas not with a ‘same old, same old’ outlook but with new eyes on the real adventure that it is and a time when you can make yourselves better. As you recall Bethlehem, the place to where we are journeying, its very name means the ‘House of Bread’, which in a very special way, in a Eucharistic way, is the House of LORD, and there we may be privileged to learn God’s ways. The Psalm and the early part of Isaiah which we read from today, were both written before the people of Judah were swept away, by the superior forces of Babylon, to Babylon where they lived in Exile for seventy years. They hadn’t learnt the ways of God well enough. Will we this Advent ?
Jesus’ birth was prophesied and awaited for centuries and as time went by it was even more and more eagerly awaited, and therefore those who were waiting felt Old Father Time was dragging his feet. But we still need to learn it’s God’s time that matters and He doesn’t drag His feet, things have to be just right for God and therefore for us.
Despite that, we are the same about the Second Coming of Jesus. What’s taking so long, God’s had twenty centuries to make up His mind about a day and time, let’s go ! But like Jesus’ Birth we will have to wait, but we should not waste the time.
There is a practice in industry called – Just-in-Time (JIT). Deliveries are made to large manufacturers on the day they are needed. Not the day after, because the plant would have to stop work, nor the day before because then they would have to build warehouses. No JIT deliveries are made on the very day, sometimes the very hour, that they are needed. Now we are not smart enough to organise our lives so that the minute Jesus returns we would immediately change our lifestyle, get rid of the bad habits, fall on our knees and pray like crazy giving thanks and asking for forgiveness, we would try to settle all our grievances against others and forgive those who hurt us. We would have a heck of a lot of stuff to do in a very short time, indeed it couldn’t be done, and like the Jews to whom Isaiah and the Psalmist spoke and the folks in Noah’s time who were swept away by the Flood, and like those whom Jesus describes, the farmer in the field and the housewife working the flour, we would be gone, not Raptured, caught up in the air with Jesus but swept away to an unknown but probably unhappy fate. The ones who are left, the faithful, are the ones who will get to live eternally with Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Choose to be one of them.
By using this time of Advent, this time of joyful waiting, to do those things you know you should do, give thanks, repent, purify your lives, forgive, and ask for forgiveness, love those who have harmed you, pray and worship God. Jesus is closer than just around the corner, He is looking over your shoulder, He is present with us in Spirit but will dramatically return to be with us in Person.
And although this is a time for repentance, for turning around, it need not be a time of dour attitudes but a time of joy. The promises of our baptism are being made new again and will be realised in freedom from the things, the inward things, that may be dragging us down today. We were at our baptisms made Christ’s own forever, only we can rebel against that promise because it will never be rescinded. If we are wise we will take every opportunity to endorse our willingness to be so claimed. Advent precedes one of the two greatest events in history when our God deigned to come down and be with us physically, use it as a time of preparation and renewal. Advent by Advent come closer to God’s House and closer to His ways.
Generally during this time in our everyday lives we start making lists. Lists of what to eat at Christmas Dinner (food always comes first in my lists), then what to buy for whom, then there’s the Christmas Card list. Then do we need more Christmas decorations, and the tree ! When do we get them when do we put them up ? And then the list of visits to make. Then there are three Services, Advent 4, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which ones do we attend, because we’ve got other things to do too, y’know !
So during this time make another list. The four weeks of Advent have the themes of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. In the first week think about and write down the hope of eternal life, that you have in the Birth of Jesus, and how you can share that with others. Then contemplate the Peace you receive through the Nativity, and how you can bring peace to at least one other person who you know is stressed-out or depressed. Then the Joy of Jesus’ Birth, and how you can share that Joy with others. And last feel the Love that Jesus brings into your life and let it spill over on all the people you meet this Advent Season. Amen.