Coming Soon: Jesus!
First Sunday of Advent 2022
From the Latin: Ad “to” Venire “come”
Coming. Approaching. Arriving.
On this first Sunday of Advent, we continue to wake from the grogginess
of over-stuffed bellies, alerted, however, to what feels like the end times,
thanks to Black Friday: the shopocalypse.
Indeed, all the nations shall stream to it, where they will turn “plastic”
into bright promises, then to be wrapped, as they await the day.
The children “better watch out” for Santa will come in the night.
And, my goodness, their goodness, he will,
the bright promises will be exchanged
and the magical harmony for which we all so yearn will come.
This is the Christmas story being told during the holiday sales at Target.
And it can make for a lot of noise.
So sadly interchangeable have become
symbols of the Incarnation with symbols of secular Christmas
that it can be hard to discern the true reason for the season:
the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, come to us.
Thank goodness, thank God we have this gospel, the perfect foil, antidote,
opening in us a compelling, hopeful Advent space.
No candy canes or mistletoe!
Not even, in the realm of faith, Mary and her cooing newborn child.
Instead, the anticipated “threat” of Jesus kidnapping someone at work
and then “breaking” in and “stealing” stuff.
We indeed turn toward the Second Coming of Christ, which the Church
suggests ought to have a much greater place on our holiday landscape:
try a few Second Coming ornaments on your tree this year!
Why the Second Coming?
Well, the Second Coming brings to completion,
and thus makes complete sense of, the First Coming.
Why did God become human? To take loving hold of us.
Why will God become human come again?
To take complete, definitive loving hold of us.
The two “Comings” are inseparable.
The First beckons the Second and so, on this first Sunday of Advent,
we cut to the chase.
Now, the challenging, tricky thing is that
we know little about the Second Coming, except that it will happen.
And, thus, in the midst of exhortations to wakefulness and readiness,
we find highlighted un-knowing.
This un-knowing is a blessing in disguise for us who think we need to know and humbles the know-it-all in us.
Admittedly unsettling, for we use our knowing--
and the accompanying certainty that we are right--
as a sort of loss-prevention program,
to protect ourselves from the unknown and the unexpected.
Maybe, Jesus is revealing, however, that being awake and ready
have little to do with knowing and such certainty.
Maybe, Jesus is revealing that being “snatched” and being “robbed”
are good things.
God become human, in Whom we live and move and have our being,
wants to save us from ourselves and our unhelpful, limiting certainties.
The “holy kidnapper-thief” wants to “steal” from us
that which can keep us from perfect communion with Him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran pastor and theologian
executed by the Nazis on April 8, 1945, says that
the celebration of Advent is really only possible when we know ourselves
to be poor and imperfect and look forward to something greater to come.
In this season of poorly bridled levels of consumption,
in which our credit card debts rise and our waistbands expand,
this is all good good news.
Thus, perhaps, instead of a list of things that we want Santa to bring,
a list of things that we want Christ to take: our preoccupation with stuff,
our self-centered fear, our resentments, our festivity excesses,
our indifference or our know-it-all-edness.
We look to the Second Coming, for we are made for the fullness of love.
Jesus is the reality of our lives.
His definitive Coming, His perfect, purifying embrace is thus central.
This gospel, then, inspires hope.
We know, in faith, that the Second Coming, will be really good.
We do not know, as this gospel tells us, when it will take place.
This un-knowing, however, frees us
to focus not on the event, but on the person of Jesus, the Christ,
which is how to be awake and ready.
Saint Teresa of Avila, Spanish reformer of the monastic life (d. 1582), says,
It is not so essential to think much as to love much.
Our degree of wakefulness and readiness for the Second Coming of Christ (and His daily coming) correspond to our degree of love.
Only love can meet Love.
Christ pours forth, in us, such divine love, for in the end,
only God can prepare us for God.
And so, during Advent, let us, as we do prepare for holiday celebrations,
acknowledge that a distracting saccharine emotionalism often clings to us,
as though eights maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, roasting chestnuts, candy canes and mistletoe will save us from the darkness of our lives.
These things are not bad, but they cannot and will not save us.
Jesus, Who comes and will come in glory, i.e. with the fulness of love, saves us.
Let us express our yearning for Him, often, wherever,
and, as Saint Paul exhorts, in today’s second reading,
“put on the armor of light and live honorably as in the day,”
knowing that He comes to us in a special way in Communion
and in myriad other ways, unexpectedly, more than we realize...