The Cosmology of Advent and Acorns

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Homily for the First Sunday of Advent
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

Back in the day, in Jesus' time, folks didn’t have a lot of science
so they were mystified and often frightened
by what they saw in the skies, in the sun, the moon and the stars,
- especially by any anomalies in the heavens’ usual patterns.

Jesus uses just such signs (and the peoples’ fear of them)
to speak of the end of the world.

In our own times, we now understand what used to be frightening.
We have the science to speak knowledgeably about
an “expanding universe”
which they tell us might lead to the end of the physical world
in either a big freeze or an absolute meltdown.

I do know more about the planets than did the ancients
but I understand nothing of the physics of cosmology.
So I’m sticking with the findings of a famous scientist-philosopher,
who once theorized:
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Remember Chicken Little?
She was hit on the head with an acorn
and she deduced from this experience that the sky was falling.
Perhaps not quite the end of the world as we know it
but if you’re a small chicken, fear is a proportional reality.

In fact, when it comes to thinking about the end of the world,
I think most of us subscribe to Chicken Little’s theory.

If that sounds outlandish, consider this:
isn’t it true that, for the most part, we go merrily along,
thinking God’s in heaven and all’s right with the world
some “acorn” falls on our heads.
Then. We. Get. Scared.

Now, in reality the “acorn” might be about as big as –--- well, an acorn.
Sometimes the smallest things upset us and so disturb our tranquility
that we carry on as if the world is coming to an end.
• I lose power for a few hours – on Thanksgiving morning.
•I don’t get the exact model of the Christmas gift I asked for.
•Road rage.
•My team loses / my candidate loses.
•I don’t get my own way.
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” 
And, of course -- it’s not.

But sometimes what hits us is more like a great oak
than the little acorn from which it grew.
•Loss of a job.
•Natural disaster.
•Failing finances.
•Emotional depression.
•Chronic pain.
•Loss of a loved one.

“The sky is falling………………”

In fact, the sky doesn’t fall – but it seems like it’s going to.
It seems like something’s happening that we won’t survive.
The big world around us doesn’t end
but the smaller world in which each of us lives
seems to be teetering on the brink of extinction.

We may have more in common with Chicken Little
than we might imagine or want to admit.

And when Chicken Little fears the heavens are about to collapse
– what does she do?

She runs to tell the king.
And that’s another way we’re like her.

Sometimes, it takes something falling on our head,
large or small,
before we “run to tell the king,” 
before we pray, 
before we turn to God.

Of course, you remember that
Chicken Little never made it to the palace to tell the king.
She made the mistake of asking a fox for directions
and what followed was a very unhappy ending for Chicken Little.

But our prospects are much better.
Ours is a king who comes to us, or more accurately, 
who came to us some 2,000 years ago.
We celebrated his kingship just last Sunday.
His name is Christ.

Our king comes to us
and not just when acorns and oak trees and the skies are falling.
He comes to us every day and invites us, every day,
to increase and abound in love for one another and for all
and to strengthen our hearts that we might stand before God
without blame, with a good conscience, in peace.

If Chicken Little had ever celebrated Advent
she might have had a better sense of what fell on her head,
she would have known where the king lived,
and she definitely would not have asked a fox for directions.

Advent is a time to prepare to celebrate Christmas - sure.
But more importantly, it’s a time to prepare for those times
when “the sky is falling…”

To prepare for when the skies will fall at the end of time,
and for when the skies fall in pain and tragedy
   around the world and in my own life;
and for when the sky falls, in my own personal failings.

Advent’s a time for remembering that our King has come to save us;
that he’s already with us and will never leave us;
and that he’ll come again
when the universe does finally expand beyond its own limits
into the mind and heart and reign of God, forever.

Right now, we find ourselves gathered at the king’s table
where he heals the bruises made by acorns
and the deep wounds of pain that are ours.

We’re gather at the foot of the Cross of our King, Jesus,
on whom the skies did fall, one Friday afternoon,
and claimed his life
but he came again, back from death, 
to share his life with us even now,
in the bread and the cup of the Eucharist.

We have about four weeks of Advent between now and Christmas.
Time to look up into the skies
and wonder about the God who made them,
the God who made us,
the God who came as One like us,
who will save us when "the sky is falling…”

If the sky is falling in my life or yours,
it’s not time to duck and hide.
It’s time to stand up straight and raise our heads
for our redemption is at hand.

May Advent find us vigilant, not drowsy,
keeping watch for Christ, our King:
the One who came to us in Bethlehem,
the One who saved us and is among us now,
the One who will come again at the end of time.


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