Preparing For Advent.....and Beyond
Christmas with a decidedly Apocalyptic flavor
If we were to play a game of word association and I was to say the word Advent, I would imagine a number of Catholics might respond with the word "prepare" or "preparation", that preparation of course being done in anticipation of that most holiest of Christian Holidays, Christmas.
The readings chosen in support of the Advent Season however advise us to think even bigger. This year we are asked to reflect upon the preparation of the second coming of Jesus, one in which He will return as the awe-inspiring conquering king, a far cry from the Baby clad in swaddling clothes born in a manger. This is heady stuff for those among us who consider the pursuit of the perfect sugar cookie recipe to be one of their most challenging holiday pursuits.
The prophet Jeremiah kicks off the Advent Season as he boldly proclaims "The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; that is what they shall call her: The LORD our justice".
Luke's Gospel goes on in even more poignant fashion:
JESUS SAID TO HIS DISCIPLES: "There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, and on Earth Nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because redemption is at hand.
Many Fundamentalists Christians might argue that these signs have begun and that our Nation is spiraling towards full "dismay mode". The near collapse and ongoing tenuous state of our financial system coupled with the utter destruction wrought by Hurricane Irene have many wondering when the locusts will be arriving, although anyone who has endured a bedbug infestation will tell those same individuals to stop waiting.
But wait, there's more.....
"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man".
Once again, the theme of preparedness is center stage (coupled perhaps with a subtle reminder to enjoy Christmas Eggnog in moderation). As Catholics, we spend less time preoccupied in our efforts to actually predict the Second Coming (as Matthew 24:36 reminds us, "but of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.") than we do in our efforts to prepare our minds, bodies and spirits for the day, whenever it may be. We long for the day when "God will wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4, a seemingly appropriate Biblical text in light of the overall Apocalyptic vibe at play here).
So perhaps we can all reflect upon who Jesus is to us this Advent season. From the newborn baby in the manger to the suffering faithful servant who died on the cross for our sins to the triumphant King who vows to return in order to bring His faithful servants back home to paradise, Jesus is all those things and more.
Dedicate this season to seeing Him more fully.