Homily for the First Sunday of Advent

Image: Prepare My People

Advent: a season of waiting for Christ to come again
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

(Audio for homily)

Around town, in the stores,
and even here at church with some wreaths
it’s beginning to look a lot like… “you know what!”

Anyone got a tree up yet? A wreath on your front door?
Lights on the house and in the front yard? Stockings hung?
Who went shopping on Friday - and at what hour?

All of these things are fine in themselves
unless and until we begin to mistake the trappings of Christmas
for its real meaning;
unless and until Advent gets lost in our Christmas rush.

Try to imagine for a moment: what would happen
if we took away all the trappings of Christmas?
If we took away Santa and all the presents,
all the decorations and lights,
all the spending and shopping and partying?
What would be left? What would we have?
Would the meaning of Christmas be any less real?

These scriptures we just heard
pose some hard questions for us
but they point us in the right direction for Advent
- and for Christmas.

The first scripture asks:
Are we remaking our weaponry into farm tools?
Are we training for war no more?
Are the nations of the world dedicated to making such peace --
-- the peace Isaiah dreamed and called us to?
And what if we scale down from the international
to our own lives?
Are we laying down the weapons
of long-standing disagreements?
the artillery of resentments and old grudges?
Are we willing to put aside
the swords of anger that arm and divide us
in our families? in our neighborhoods? in our parish?

Movement towards reconciliation and peace --
that’s the business of Advent.

Are we following St. Paul’s advice
to “throw off the works of darkness?”
- the words and deeds, the relationships
(business and social)
that we’re not so proud of?
embarrassed by?
ashamed of?
Are we putting on the “armor of light,”
living and working and playing
honestly, justly and charitably?

That’s the work Advent.

When it comes to our spiritual life,
are we awake, as Paul calls us to be?
Or are we dozing, napping, asleep at the switch?
What will wake us, shake us,
rouse us from our spiritual complacency?

In this season of “giving and getting”
(in the larger season of a bad economy),
what rivalries, jealousies and envy shape our expectations
and misshape our hearts’ desires?
Or are we working for acceptance of who we are
and contentment with what we have?
That’s the agenda for Advent.

Much more than “getting a birthday party ready for Jesus”
Advent is meant to be a season to help us
wake up and shape up, to be ready
- not for giving and getting presents -
but to rouse us to be ready to meet Christ
who has already come,
who is with us not just at the end of December
but every day of the year
and who will come again --
at the moment of our death
and at the end of time.

Advent is a season to prepare for,
to rehearse for meeting Jesus.
In a crèche in our living room or at church?
Yes, there too.
But more importantly to prepare ourselves to meet Jesus
day in and day out so that when he comes,
on that day, at that hour unknown to us,
we will be ready to meet him and his judgment.

Our horizon on all of this is so often and so easily limited
by the date of December 25.
Jesus will be no more present to us on Christmas Day
than he is on November 28 - today.
But the known date of Christmas gives us an opportunity
to pray and prepare for the unknown day and the hour
each of us will face.

An important part of our rehearsing for Christ’s return
is our outreach to those in need.
We have the Giving Trees
and the Prison Outreach Gift Project
not just to keep some people from feeling left out
on Christmas morning
but to help us remember that we should be harvesting
a forest of giving trees all year ‘round
-- because that is what followers of Jesus do
as they wait for his return.

What would Christmas look like if we took away the presents?
It would look like people waiting, not for a wrapped gift,
but waiting for One whose love is greater than any gift
that might be imagined or hoped for.

That's what Christians wait for in Advent.

Christmas without parties
might look like Cor Unum or the Boston Rescue Mission,
soup kitchens where our young people serve the poor and hungry.
Because that’s what Christians do
while waiting for Christ’s return.

Christmas without lights might look like a darkened stable
where a child is born in poverty,
or a table where the simple meal is
a piece of Bread and a sip from a Cup:
food for servants but served by a King.

As Christ came to Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago,
he comes to this table every time we celebrate the Eucharist.
As he gave himself once in the sacrifice of the Cross
so he gives himself today in sacrament of the altar.

May the Eucharist and this season of Advent
ready our hearts for the day when we will meet Jesus
and strengthen us to ready the world for his return.

May the dawn of his coming
find us praising God
and welcoming the light of his truth.

Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments


  1. Wonderful.Terrific. Brilliant. !!
    Thank you. I can't write at length as it is fffff...freezing here in Cornwall UK.
    Blessings and all love and best wishes for a Holy Advent and good luck with the new liturgy. even if you can't please all of the people all of the time etc...

  2. I'm hearing..."Dry bones..." on the audio. Loved your Homily for Pentecost. Did you want us to hear it again? Or is it just me?

  3. Thanks, Anne! I have NO idea how I did that - but the error is corrected!

  4. Fr. Austin, This is a beautiful homily. Thank you for always taking the time to post your homilies. My RCIA journey continues as I celebrate the Rite of Acceptance next Sunday, the 2nd Sunday in Advent. I thank God for you always being there. Peace, Jerry

  5. That's great news, Jerry - and I'm grateful that you shared it here. I'm sure my readers join me in praying for you as you take this step in faith. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

  6. Thank you for the beautiful homily. Must confess I was hoping you would burst forth in song...."It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas"!!

  7. Jamma: the thought crossed my mind! But to do so would have derailed where I really wanted to go so I held off.

  8. good decision (not singing that song)-
    I don't think any of us need any help being distracted- and derailed from the point- from the truth and what is real- especially at this time of year.

    I wish you a prayerful Advent that brings peace to your heart-


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