Tuesday, December 4, 2012

All Advents are times of Preparation

The 1st Sunday of Advent

     GOSPEL LUKE 21: 25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples [concerning the end times]:"Signs will appear in the sun, the moon, and the stars.And on the earth, nations will be in anguish, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright, in anticipation of what is coming upon the earth, for even the powers of the heavens will be shaken.After that, people will see the Chosen One coming on a cloud with great power and glory. When these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads,because your redemption is near at hand."Be on your guard lest your spirits become dissipated with indulgence, drunkenness and worldly concerns.For that day will catch you by surprise like a trap, and that day will suddenly assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray constantly that you have the strength to escape whatever tribulations come and to stand before the Messiah.

Advent is a wonderful season of the Church year, a penitential season that is also joyous as we anticipate the joy of Christmas. We look forward to decorating our houses and cities, of visiting and having visits with friends and family, of beautiful music in church; but we often miss the meaning of this season in the here and now as we anticipate the joy of Christmas. There are some things we need to do to get ready, not just for Christmas, or even for the entire year. Advent is here to help us get ready for the rest of our lives.

Let me tell you a parable. Old friends and neighbors know how you live. If one of them is going to come over for a cup of coffee, you may not do much to tidy up. You know they understand the local conditions and how they affect how the inside of your house may look. If you live in the dry and dusty southwest, you may have a problem with dust in your house, especially if there is a dirt road near your house. If you live someplace where snow covers the ground for as much half of the year, you are familiar with the fact that they have five seasons instead of just four, that fifth season is the one that comes between winter and spring sometime between late March and early May when the snow cover melts. It is called Mud season. Even if you don’t have dogs, it is very hard to keep the floors clean during Mud season. Whether you have any of these problems or not, now lets add another problem into the mix.

After many years of being apart, an old friend is coming to visit you, a friend whom you deeply respect and love, but was someone who always had a reputation as something of a perfectionist. What do you do? How do you prepare for this visit? What if it turns out that this honored guest doesn’t really care how your house looks, that He only cares about the state of your heart and soul and whether you truly love Him? Suppose you knew this. If you knew that who was coming was Jesus and that He really cared about the state of your house, you would probably try to make your house look perfect. There are two problems here: The first problem is that not only is He not really interested in the state of the physical house. The second problem is that He has told us that no one except the Father knows when He is coming (Matt. 24:36).

If we don’t know when Jesus is coming, that ought to tell us that the house needs to ready for at all times. This is one of the purposes of Advent – to remind us of this. For anyone who does not know this, an Advent is a coming, a coming toward, or an arrival. The Advent season of the church is generally thought to have two purposes: First to prepare us spiritually for our celebration of Christmas, the Birth of Christ, which is considered to be His First Coming, and then Secondly, to remind us and help us to prepare for His Second coming; or maybe it is the other way around.

Because of all the secular emphasis on gift-giving and supporting the economy at Christmas time, it might seem that the most important function of the Advent season is to prepare us for Christmas as the celebration of the birth of Jesus. In the past that is what it has seemed to be – a preparation for Christmas. That is certainly important, but is it the most important?

Somehow, I don’t think so.Jesus’ birth would not have the importance it has unless there were some other events in His life that could some-how overshadow it, namely, His Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection; and those three events really need to be looked at a single event. It was in those three days that He opened the Kingdom of heaven to all believers. His Ascension sealed the truth of all that went before it – that He was in truth the Son of God Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who is in fact, God. We have His words recorded from before the Crucifixion and those of an angel recorded at the Ascension that he will come again.

 The only event of any real significance that has happened since the Ascension was the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Since that time, nothing of any significance has happened that might somehow change what we must do to be saved. We seem to be in a period when God is silent, just as He was during the 400 years between the Prophet Malachi and the birth of Jesus.However, there are some other comings of Christ that we also need to take a look at: Advents that are not usually thought about or discussed as Advents, and which are not usually thought of as being tied to the Advent season.

There are those appearances of “an angel of the Lord. Any time we gather in this church to worship God and God's Son, Jesus Christ, He is here among us. When there are just two of you at the table and someone asks the blessing in the Name of the Lord, He is there. What’s more, He is here even more so in His mysterious presence in the Holy Eucharist. These are true Advents. Are you made uneasy that God might be that close to you all through your life? It doesn’t matter if that makes you uneasy or not; He is there. However, that does not deny the spiritual Advents we all experience.

At those times, and many others, God comes to us; and when He does, that is an Advent. To come to us in those ways, God does not have to go far, because God is already here. God’s knowledge of us and what we do far transcends that Christmas song, “Santa Claus is coming to Town”, says about Santa Claus, where it says, “He knows when you are sleeping; He knows when you’re awake; He knows if you’ve been bad of good, so be good for goodness sake.”

Jesus Christ knows everything there is to know about each of us. If He did not, He could not judge us in righteousness and truth, and with mercy. When Jesus comes to us at the final Advent, He will come unexpectedly. We shall have no warning. If we had warning, He would expect to see a flurry of activity in an attempt by each of us to put our spiritual houses in order. What we do know is that no person’s spiritual house is ever ready for Jesus’ inspection and judgment. For the church, today is New Year’s Day. This is a good time to make some resolutions and to begin to put our spiritual houses in better order, to put on the armor of light so that we can see the dust and dirt in the corners and under the rugs, now in the time of this mortal life, which is the only chance we have to do it. Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.With repentance and the broom of prayer and washings with the Blood of the Lamb, we can make our spiritual houses a little cleaner each day, so we shall be ready for all the Advents of Jesus.

St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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