Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent: not just a Christmas Countdown!


Homily for the First Sunday of Advent

As the song tells us,
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas - ev'rywhere you go…

There are signs of Christmas all around us:
in the stores, in the streets, in our own windows and on our front lawns.

Signs of Christmas all around us
which might sound a little bit like what Jesus says in the gospel today:
There will be signs…

Except that the “signs” Jesus refers to are in the heavens,
in the sun, the moon and the stars, and they’re signs -
not of a religious holiday much less, great savings at Macy’s
but signs of a time, a day, an hour when we will stand, each of us,
before the very face of God.

Those who first heard Jesus speak these words
understood he was speaking of the PAROUSIA -
that’s a Greek word meaning the Day of the Lord,
the Second Coming of Christ, the end of time: PAROUSIA.
Thus, this gospel imagery of the solar system being shaken
and people dying of fright for what they will see.
Think “climactic” and “apocalyptic” - PAROUSIA!

Now, the exact Latin equivalent of the Greek word, PAROUSIA
is ADVENTUS, in English: Advent.

It’s unfortunate when we drain the depth and drama of the word Advent
and shrink it down to “four weeks to get ready for Christmas.”

But the season we enter this weekend is meant to do a lot more
than get us ready for setting up nativity scenes in our living rooms
or exchanging gifts on Christmas morning.

Advent is not just a "Christmas Countdown!"

Advent is intended as a kind of “dress rehearsal” for the end time
and even before then, for the end of our individual lives,
for that time when each of us will stand before the face of God
hoping he will mercifully welcome us into his arms.

In fact,
Advent is a season for us to rehearse how we will stand before God
not only on our last day but on every day of our lives,
whether tomorrow is our last or decades stretch before us.

So I might do well to ask myself on this First Sunday of Advent:
Where are the signs to watch for in my life?
What signs might the Lord be giving to get my attention,
to point me in a particular direction, to reorient my path through life,
to call me to accountability?

And if I have trouble finding and seeing the signs the Lord gives me
perhaps I need to ask:
What’s clouding my vision?
What fog of activity or selfishness or distraction keeps me for seeing
how the Lord is trying to get my attention, get my ear, speak to me?
What keeps me from being alert to God’s presence,
God’s touch, God’s movement in my life?

These are tough questions to ask at any time
and even tougher to ponder in a season often marked
by carousing, excess and indulgence -
the very things that can so readily render us spiritually drowsy!

St. Paul’s words today
urged us to strengthen our hearts in love and faith
so that we might stand blameless before God,
living our lives as God calls us to live…

There’s so much in these harried, hurried days to distract us
from what lies at the heart of Christmas.

It’s so easy to shrink this season not less than four weeks
but to just a few days of shopping and parties and gift-giving
when at the heart of it all is a call to renew our faith in God
who desires, earnestly, to break into our lives,
as he did some 2,000 years ago:
to forgive, heal and shape us
into the persons we were created to be.

Pray with me that this Advent we will open our eyes and our hearts
and look for the signs through which the Lord draws near to each of us,
as he draws near to us at this table, week after week, in the Eucharist,
the greatest sign of his presence among us.

Let’s recall the words of today’s beautiful opening prayer:

O God, increase our longing for Christ our Savior
and give us strength to grow in his love,
that the dawn of his coming may find us
rejoicing in his presence
and welcoming the light of his truth.

-ConcordPastor

4 comments:

michelle said...

thank you, ConcordPastor, for another thoughtful homily...

Dear God,
please clear away the fog that is clouding my vision-
please help me to always be listening, looking and feeling for your words, your movement and your touch.

Concord Carpenter said...

Nice prayer Michelle

michelle said...

thank you, CC- and thanks to CP for the words, inspiration and...
my seeing my need, the strength, energy and ability to pray!

Anonymous said...

I just noticed that "Countdown" in your title is missing a "t"

Rosemary