First Sunday in Advent

29 November 2020

With great joy and gladness, the Church enters a new season and a new liturgical year.  It’s a season when God wants to do something new in our lives.  A new season is like a chapter of a book: there’s an end and a beginning, and something we can look forward to.  We move from the message of preparation to expectation.

Today’s Gospel says repeatedly, let us stay awake.  This doesn’t mean we won’t sleep, but we need to be awake spiritually in our hearts, knowing that Jesus our Lord will come anytime.  We don’t know when He’s coming – even the angels don’t know.  II Peter 3:9 says it’s because of God’s mercy that He delays: He’s giving everyone an opportunity to repent.  We prepare our hearts and expect the Second Coming of Christ, and the celebration of His coming in the Incarnation and Nativity.

Where is God in our plans?

Mark 13:28

Many people look forward to summer: it’s beautiful and full of fun.  When I was in high school and college it was a time to hang around with friends.  It’s a time when people are more relaxed; it’s a time to recuperate and catch up with family.  In Europe, vacation is regarded as holy: people save money and go on holiday.  Summer is when trees are in full bloom, full of leaves and green; it’s when the world is considered to be in full bloom, when things are ripe, having reached their fullness or apex.  In autumn, on the other hand, the leaves change colour and eventually fall.  Plans are made for the coming year, parents are occupied with buying school supplies for their children, and it can be very stressful for many.  In colder countries, it’s a time to prepare for winter: gathering wood for the fire, raking leaves, sealing the windows, preparing the car, and getting winter clothes out. 

But in the busyness and hurry, where is God?  This is a reminder from Robert Webber’s book, Time: where is God in our plans?  There are times when He is absent or remote, and He’s truly forgotten, because we become enmeshed in the daily affairs of life.  We lose the desire to pray and read God’s Word because we’re too busy, and we don’t hear what He’s saying.  Even Sunday worship can become a meaningless routine and a dead form because we’re in a hurry.  This may be unintentional, but it can easily happen if we’re overwhelmed by the demands of daily life. 

This is when we should be thankful for the season of Advent.  It’s a time when God breaks in on us with new surprises, touching us with His renewing and restoring power as the Church enters a new year of worship and spirituality.  We can expect and call upon God for a new breaking in and fresh outpouring of His Spirit, that even in the busyness of life He will touch us. 

The renewing of our faith

Recent typhoons in the Philippines resulted in flooding, which destroyed many people’s homes and livelihoods because of the uncontrolled flow of water.  The opposite is a pool of stagnant water: nothing runs in or out of it.  Spiritual life can easily become pool of stagnant water: barren, static and unproductive; this was Isaiah’s message to Israel.  When water is stagnant, insects live there and mosquitoes come out of it. 

There’s an interesting story in John 5:2-9.  In Jerusalem by the sheep gate was a pool called Bethesda, meaning “house of mercy”.  Around it lay many people who were sick, blind, lame and paralysed, because at times an angel stirred the water, and whoever went into the water first was healed of their infirmity.  There was a man who was sick for 38 years; Jesus asked him whether he wanted to be made well.  He answered, “I have no one to put me into the water, and another person steps in front of me”: he lost the opportunity to be healed.  Jesus wisely said to him, “Take up your bed and walk”, and he did exactly as Jesus commanded.  Saint Augustine said the pool of water signifies people, referring to Revelation 14:2, 19:6: “the voice of many waters” means the voice of many people.  The pool of water can mean people whose spiritual state is stagnant, as opposed to a river of flowing water.  The season of Advent is when God stirs our lies out for their stagnant state, resulting in the renewing of our hope, faith, love and peace in God.

May the words of Isaiah 40:28-31 speak to us, especially if you’re at the end of your rope.  Summer was relaxed, then comes autumn when we become busy and go back to work, and particularly there have been added concerns because of the pandemic.  I encourage you to open your heart.  Let us embark on the season of Advent.  God wants to do something new in your life: expect it, pray that it will happen, that God will come to touch the stagnant pool of water and make it alive again.  This is what He wants to do in our spiritual lives in preparation for the coming of our Lord.  Let us take the advice of the Gospel, stay awake, and even allow God to change our schedule.  Don’t panic if things don’t go the way we want: God may be leading and guiding you because He wants to do something new in your life.  Advent is an exciting time; may this message touch your heart and lead and guide you, because God wants to do something new.

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