Welcome to the new church year! Happy Liturgical New Year!
Ordinary time is over. It’s the first Sunday of Advent, and our scripture lays out themes of expectant faith and staying awake.
In Advent, we get glimmers of something just beyond our vision.
Jesus says, “Keep awake.” St. Paul today says, ”Wake from sleep.”
These are statements about expectant faith, where we look for signs of Christ’s presence among us AND at the same time, coming to us in a new way.
Advent is a time when we admit we are awake and – asleep.
That Christ is coming and yet he is among us.
We live in a moment of expectant faith, waiting for MORE, wanting MORE.
This swath of blue fabric travels from one point and ends here near God’s Word.
It’s a symbol of our Advent journey. Christ draws us closer. It’s DRAMATIC.
It’s a DYNAMIC journey.
I’ll bet plenty of you have shown expectant faith when you’ve gone to a baseball game.
You show expectant faith when you bring your baseball glove ready to catch that wild swing and a miss that pops up right over your head.
I was once at a game of the Brooklyn Cyclones at Coney Island, and the ball came right for my head.
I leaned away and the guy a seat one seat away from me leaned over and caught it.
I took his picture, sent it to him, and he posted it on his Facebook page in minutes. He came with his glove – expectant faith – mission accomplished.
We feel a glow of satisfaction when we come prepared for the big MAYBE.
MAYBE the ball will be pitched my way. MAYBE I’ll be the one to catch it.
We pat ourselves on the back for having expectant faith. Lots of people bring their mitts.
Before we leave for the game, and pack that mitt, we say to ourselves, ‘Why not me?’
If you have children, then you especially show that expectant faith, and say, “Maybe . . .” Maybe I WILL be the one to catch it.
Your adult side may say I’m not so sure, but you tell your child, “It COULD happen! We COULD be the ones who catch it.
How thrilling to be the ONE!” Part of our job as adults IS to give children HOPE for what MAY be.
Outside of a baseball field, what does expectant faith and HOPE look like?
Jesus says, we are to stay awake, but what exactly does that mean?
Are we to be hyper vigilant, are we to be anxious, are we to be a bit paranoid, looking over our shoulders?
I don’t think that’s what Jesus means.
Advent is a NEW CHURCH Liturgical year, and what if we really treated it like the NEW YEAR, January 1st?
What if, like on January 1st, we make a resolution to put aside old habits – such as – of negativity that block the HOPE that Christ wants to give us?
Today’s gospel may appears ALARMING, but when CHRIST comes, it is to set things RIGHT.
Christ’s coming is a HOPEFUL event.
Vice-President Renée Wicklund of the MNYS, addresses negativity in the Oct. 19th edition of the newsletter.
She says a “poor me” attitude gets in the way of being grateful.
She says a, “poor me” attitude can be turned around when we focus on gratitude, and then, our gratitude enables us to reach out to others.
Instead of staying stuck in our our negative thoughts, ACTIONS to help our neighbors can REALLY pull us out of the negative thoughts into something NEW, where HOPE surrounds us.
On that note of setting things right, what if we form little mental exercises where instead of telling ourselves some negative statements we tell ourselves, YES something good can happen, and not the usual, ‘prepare for the worst.’
We are ALL at fault of having mental habits of negativity.
Our mental habits can end up having us prepared for every negative event, EXCEPT for something GOOD.
Advent is about the expectant faith that something GOOD, Jesus, Messiah, is COMING SOON!
This blue banner symbolizes Jesus HURTLING toward us with many good things!
As Mary sings in the Magnificat, “He has filled the hungry with every good thing!” HOLY is his name.”
Is it easier to think negative things than positive?
I think it is.
We can ALL fall in the trap of negative thinking, and the ‘poor me’ attitude.
Maybe it’s because we hate being unprepared for when things go wrong, but let’s BE PREPARED for when THINGS GO TERRIBLY RIGHT!
Let’s decide we’ll TRUST more.
Trusting may make us feel uncomfortable – for a while until it becomes more natural.
Children TRUST. They TRUST and bring that baseball mitt to the ball park.
Adults have to make a real mental adjustment to STAY HOPEFUL.
What actions can you do to show your hope beside bringing a baseball mitt?
We can make a NEW habit for our NEW liturgical year.
Every time we think, something negative, we can then add on to our statement, but CHRIST gives me HOPE in this and every situation.
The good thing is, that every time we add this POSITIVE statement, we wake ourselves up a little bit more.
We make a claim that CHRIST is our HOPE.
That we depend on CHRIST.
This little bit of HOPE IS a GENUINE walk of faith with Christ, in which we throw a little bit more of ourselves into walking with HIM.
And being AWAKE with him.
St. Paul in Romans says, “you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.”
There’s an inference in Romans that there is a process in becoming awake.
It doesn’t happen all at once.
God awakens us . . . and then there is more to which God gradually awakens us.
We wake up gradually.
When we add a message of HOPE to our thoughts, we are gradually waking ourselves up.
We are remembering WHO is in charge.
We remember to WHOM we belong.
When we give ourselves deliberate, positive messages of HOPE, we are pinching ourselves awake a little more each time, and obeying Jesus to stay awake.
Our expectant faith is to be more like what St. Paul lays out in his letter to the Romans: “live honorably” and then he lays out all the OPPOSITE ways of living honorably: “drunkenness” . . . “quarreling and jealousy.”
These are behaviors that BLOCK Christ’s light and love.
When we CHOOSE to live honorably in a dishonorable world, we are choosing to stay awake.
When we push away temptation and choose to do the right thing, we are staying awake.
When we choose to live honorably among dishonorable people, it’s like we are pinching ourselves awake.
Have you ever had to pinch yourself awake?
It’s not pleasant, and it’s not comfortable to live honorably when others are not.
It’s like we’re going against the flow, like salmons swimming upstream.
Have you ever had to struggle against a crowd – you’re going one way, and THEY are going the opposite? You have to stay alert so you don’t get swept off your feet.
The first time I went to a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I was carried along with the crowd, and that was scary.
My feet weren’t always touching the ground. I had to focus and concentrate on staying upright. That can be similar to staying honorable in a dishonorable environment.
The positive behaviors we choose helps us to stay focused, and stay wakeful.
St. Paul needed to give encouragement to these brand-new Christians so they could stay true and focused on the prize – eternal life with Christ even now as they LIVED.
Our gospel has Jesus crashing into our world and it is a NEW DAY!
He compares himself to a thief who comes in the night.
Recently thieves broke into a museum in Dresden, Germany and stole priceless jewelry.
Does Jesus mean he’s like those thieves?
What Jesus wants us to know is that we must be ready.
We should prepare ourselves.
Are we there yet?
Are we there yet? No, we’re not there yet.
Advent is a time when we remind ourselves we are still on the path.
When we break out of old habits, and perform our tasks with faith, hope, and love, we are coming awake.
The ‘poor me’ attitude is transformed into a grateful heart.
Rene Wicklund ends with: “When we turn self-pity into gratitude, God can turn that gratitude into giving.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Loving Lord, thank you for the gift of Advent.
Help us to grow more awake with renewed HOPE and FAITH, and actions of Love for those who need it during this season of ADVENT.
We pray this in the name of Jesus.