The Sundays of Advent all have distinctive themes according to the Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass. This First Sunday of Advent is about the Lord’s coming at the end of time and being prepared⎯which may also be a paradigm for being prepared for the birth of Christ at the end of Advent. We are told in the Gospel of St. Mark to “Be watchful! Be alert!” We must be ready for God’s kingdom to break into this world; we wait in joy and hope for His coming at Christmas and at the end of time.
Everyone is so busy and will be busier as Christmas approaches: shopping, card-writing, parties, cooking, baking and decorating (I do not turn on my Christmas lights until the last few days just before Christmas). The challenge for us is to reflect on Jesus’ birth and second coming—and not be sooo busy that we miss the point of the reason for this Advent season.
We need to prepare for Christmas, so we must learn to wait and not be drawn into the secular world of Christmas now. An example of waiting for Christmas is like the bride who waits for her wedding, preparing and expectant, but not showing her dress ahead of time. Looking at Christmas’ coming in this way, we may learn to wait for the actual arrival of Christmas, and then we have a whole ‘season’ to celebrate that arrival! (I am always disturbed with 24-7 Christmas music being played on the radio before Halloween!)
The Responsorial Psalm for this First Sunday of Advent is a petition to God to take tender care of us: “Lord make us turn to you and we shall be saved.” And so, we turn to Him, we await Him with hope and joy, we prepare for His coming, and we are saved. Advent is a time to try to listen carefully, to turn to God. St. Paul reminds us today that we will have everything we need (every spiritual gift) while we wait for the Lord. That is a good thing to remember the next time we feel the frenetic need to have Christmas now. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! We are waiting, alert and awake as we watch for you.