Last night I went with my daughter Sophia to a Vigil Mass which begins the Advent Season. She was excited to be “going it alone” with “Daddy” and I was even more glad that she wanted to go. It did not go as I expected...
One might expect, given it is the beginning of Advent (which means “Coming”) that the readings would have something to do with the approaching celebration of the Birth (Nativity) of Jesus Christ right? After all Christmas is approaching (fast) and Advent is “all about Christmas.” You know, decking halls and ringing bells and Fa, la, la, la, la in a nice little Manger far away? As often is the case in my Christian life I did not get what I expected. Here is an excerpt of the Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent:
“As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (From the 24th Chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel)
In this teaching Jesus Christ is talking about NOT His own Birth but His second coming. “Son of Man” is the way Jesus often refers to Himself. Of course we realize that if Jesus is saying these words He is not a baby anymore. In fact this teaching takes place, chronologically speaking, soon before His death on the Cross! So why in the world would the Church decide to place this reading at the very beginning of the new liturgical year? How does this fit with Christmas preparations? I considered this further.
When we celebrate Christmas we celebrate something that has already occurred. Yes? Unless you have lived on another planet (or a very remote area of this one) you realize that Jesus Christ has already been born, already died, and has already risen from the dead! So what sense does it make to celebrate something that happened over 2000 years ago? Consider your own birthday... (some of you have had MANY birthdays Ha!) what do you celebrate? Yes, of course, you celebrate the gift of life as a whole not simply the fact that you were once a baby...this would be weird. “Yeah! I was once very small! Hooray!” No. We want to celebrate the fact that we exist and others (for the most part) want to celebrate with us. (Because they also get cake) So why all this morbid talk about floods and death and the end of the world?
This is the time we live in. We live in what is referred to as “The fullness of time,” which means, very simply, that the stage is set and the great “End of the Word” drama is set to begin at ANY moment...really...really, really. So while you’re dashing around attempting to get the “newest” thinga-ma-bob at the store for so and so who will likely need yet an ever NEWER thinga-ma-bob by this time next year because the latest thinga-ma-bob is obsolete as soon as the wrapping comes off...you should remember: Jesus Christ is coming AGAIN. Are you ready? You might not be. If you’re not will you do something to get ready? Or, will you like so many others (including those who died in the flood) go about your life, “Business (or busyness) as usual?” Or, will this be the year that you begin to take your eternal life seriously? Stop playing “Eternal Roulette” and get yourself together. How much more plainly can it be said? Your eternal destiny depends on what you’re doing now. If you’re not seeking to know Jesus Christ in reality...perhaps you think you’re too busy or you’ll “get to it later.” You might be sorry forever...or joyful forever. Jesus Christ is real and is no longer, simply, “Away in a Manger.” He’s coming and we don’t know when...be ready...get ready. Let your life be an eternal “Thank you” to God. I pray I'm ready.