Bulletin: November 28, 2021
First Sunday of Advent
Today, whether at evening, morning, or midday, in many communities of different churches around the world, the first candle lighted in each Advent wreath silently but beautifully announces the beginning of a new liturgical year. This new beginning presents a grace-filled opportunity for us to resolve to live not simply according to the secular calendar of our commercialized society, but according to the spirit of the liturgy. There’s nothing wrong—indeed there can be something quite holy—about planning to celebrate God’s surprising gift of the Son by surprising our loved ones with thoughtful gifts at Christmas. But how important, amid the rush of holiday preparations, to take the time and to make the effort to appreciate Advent’s early twilights and later sunrises, awash in the purples, deep blues, and even the dusky rose colors we associate with Advent. Thus we let nature’s own “Advent” prompt reflections on the “Advent” that Jeremiah saw coming.
IMAGES OF THE END-TIMES
How forcefully today’s scriptures challenge us to attend to the ominous nature of the Kingdom’s definitive in-breaking! The call echoes through Jeremiah’s prophecy: “In those days, in that time” and in Paul’s letter: “at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.” The theme intensifies toward a crescendo in Luke: “there will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth . . . dismay and perplexity.” People will be scared to death—literally—“in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,” as “seas and waves roar” and “the powers of heaven will be shaken.” And all of this will be just a prelude to “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” In the face of this “awful” (that is, filled-with-awe) ending, Jesus warns his disciples to guard against two equally debilitating extremes, both of which seem to be trademarks of our contemporary culture: deadening diversion on one hand, and frantic anxiety on the other.
PREPARATION FOR THE END-TIMES
In light of these predictions of frightening end-times, Jesus advises us to embrace his three-fold “Preparation for the End Program”: (1) “Beware!” that is, be aware of what really matters, life’s true priorities. (2) “Be vigilant at all times,” that is, watchful for Christ’s coming not only at the end but in the meantime, in family and neighbor, friend and stranger. (3) Above all, “pray.” Prayer, communion with God, will help us to remember that for faithful disciples, The End of this world—or our own lives, whichever comes first—will be The Beginning of a joy no one can take from us, fullness of life that will never end. How lovely if this Advent’s renewal prepared us to look forward to the moment of Jesus’ coming—in his glory or our death—not as a cataclysmic disaster, but as a reason for which to “stand erect and raise (our) heads (in joyful expectation) because (our) redemption is at hand.”