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cappie

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT (YEAR A)

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cappie

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which is also the first Sunday of a new liturgical year for the Church. The Advent season includes the four Sundays that precede Christmas. It is a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord. In this season, we recall two central elements of our faith: the final coming of the Lord in glory and the incarnation of the Lord in the birth of Jesus.

How does your time look between now and Christmas? Is your calendar for the next four weeks a jumble of “musts”? There’s shopping, wrapping, shipping, delivering. There are the Christmas cards. It’s all there on your calendar, be it paper or digital, and it’s all your time.

And then there’s God’s time. It’s all contained within the circle of the Advent wreath, the wreath with the first candle lit this morning. It’s the beginning of Advent, the beginning of the church year, that big wheel of time that every year turns us from the waiting of Advent to the joy of Christmas, to the waiting of Lent to the joy of Easter, to the waiting of Eastertide to the joy of Pentecost, to the joy of life in ordinary time and back again.

So, here is the span of God’s time we enter this morning. This candle marks the beginning of the time we will spend with the prophet Isaiah, that prophet from the Hebrew Scriptures known and trusted and quoted by the writers of the New Testament.

The light of this candle infuses today’s readings. Isaiah implores his listeners to walk in the light of the Lord into the kingdom where people do not learn how to make war but instead turn their energies toward cultivating the earth and not destroying it.

Paul echoes Isaiah’s vision when he urges his listeners to wake up, to leave the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light. Paul also echoes what he had heard that Jesus said to his disciples, the words that Matthew attributes to him: “Keep awake therefore.”

And so, the circle of Advent time comes around again. But Advent is not a time when we go through the motions of remembering a story whose ending, we already know. It’s worth remembering that we begin our journey around this wheel this morning with Jesus’ own prediction of how he will come to us again. Advent is about Jesus coming once and promising to come again. This time of Advent is about the light shining in the darkness but not obliterating the darkness. It is about the kingdom having already come near to us but not yet having been fulfilled.

There is much work left to be done – and not just all we face these next four weeks. But you know what? Christmas always comes whether we get it all done – perfectly – or not.

Will the kingdom come in a similar inevitable way? What will we have done to hasten its coming? Will we recognize it when it comes? Who are we? Which farmer in the field? Which woman grinding meal? Will we go about our pre-Christmas tasks, marking out our time, and forget about the Advent stories of God’s time? Or, perhaps, can we overlay these two arcs of time, taking good care of the tasks that will make for a special holiday season and staying awake for the signs of the kingdom – of God’s time – breaking into our time?

Because it is not that we shouldn’t enjoy the hustle and bustle of the secular season of “X-number of days until Christmas” – even though some preachers are known to guilt us into thinking it is less-than-Christian to fall for this month’s commercialism.

We only have one world – this world we live in, the one in which God finds us and loves us. Jesus never asked us not to be human. Jesus became human and came into the chaos of our world to show us how to navigate our way through it using love and compassion as our touchstones. During the coming days whenever we are asked “Are you ready for Christmas?” we should picture ourselves being asked the more important question, “Are you ready for Christ?”

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