Homily for the First Sunday of Advent – Cycle C – 29 November 2015
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14
1 Thessalonians 3:12 – 4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
It is often said that the key to the central theme of the readings can be found in the Psalm. This is usually true. Sometimes, however, this key is a bit hidden. That is what we are faced with today – an almost hidden theme, hidden right in plain sight!
Let us start by looking at the first line of the Psalm. “Your ways, O Lord, make known to me….” Now, that seems like a rather straight-forward verse. And, on the surface it is. We need to keep it in mind, however, as we go through the readings and try to discern what our theme is for this First Sunday of Advent.
Advent should be a happy time because we already know the story. We may be waiting for Jesus – but he is already here! We have cause to rejoice. Advent is for rejoicing!
Indeed, this upbeat idea fits right into today’s readings! And, this idea is in that first line of the Psalm too. “Your ways, O Lord, make known to me.” What are these ways and are they really joyful? Let us examine each of the readings and see. The readings are all about our learning and knowing the ways of the Lord, which is the plea of the Psalm. And each reading is up lifting and happy.
In the reading from Jeremiah, the Lord says, “The days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the House of Israel and Judah….In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure.” The Lord also promises a leader who will do all that is right and just. Those sound like rather exciting promises! Imagine the land safe and secure. Imagine not having to worry about anything that is not right or just and leaders who practice these virtues in all things. This definitely fits the plea of the Psalm. This is certainly very positive.
The second reading, from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, is a direct answer to the cry of the Psalm. “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…to be blameless in holiness before our God….(We) ask and exhort you…(that)…you should conduct yourselves to please God….” These are the same directives – the same ways of the Lord – that are found throughout Scripture, particularly the New Testament. Definitely positive.
The Gospel from Luke also answers the query about the ways of the Lord and specifically mentions right behavior so that we are not caught by surprise. In this reading, however, the emphasis is on end times and the writing itself is almost apocalyptic in nature as it talks about signs in the skies and disruptions among nations and roaring waves and the coming of the Son of Man. Even so, we are prepared so again we have a positive and exciting message.
So, if we look at a succinct overview of what we have here, we see that we are looking for the way of the Lord. We see the promise and what will happen when the Lord reigns in Jeremiah; we see the directives of Jesus (albeit through Paul) in Thessalonians; and we see the warnings of the end times and the coming of the Son of Man in Luke. This seems to be very much of an answer to the plea to be shown the way – right through history, from the prophets, through Jesus, to the end. And it is all there for our happiness, for our benefit.
What about this first Sunday of Advent though? How does this fit – both with the theme and with the statement earlier that Advent is a time of rejoicing?
Advent should be a time of excitement, of exhilaration! We know the end of the story! We know Jesus has already come! This is not a time for being morose. We are getting ready for a birthday party! Everyone knows how exciting it is to prepare for a birthday party! People are happy. They are singing. They are wrapping gifts. They are decorating. Why does the church think advent must be so somber? What is wrong with Christmas Carols during Advent? Nothing, I say! We’re getting ready for a wonderful birthday party.
We know the story of Advent. We know about waiting for the Messiah. Well, here in our readings today we have the whole story! We have the initial promise, the basic rules for doing what pleases God, and the final coming. What more could we ask for?
Why are we glum during Advent? I have never understood that. And I am excited that this year I have heard a number of people wishing each other a “Happy Advent!” Indeed, it should be a Happy Advent!! We know the whole story! We know how the story will end for each of us individually and we know how it will end for the world. Our individual ends are in sight; the end of the world is probably several million years in the future. Regardless, we must still be prepared. And, we do have those directions. So we should rejoice. At least that old stand by “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” has the word “rejoice” in it – even if too many people do sing it like a funeral dirge!
So, what is Advent really about? Advent is a reenactment of the wait for the Messiah. The Messiah is already here; Advent is a reminder, a reenactment.
It is also a time for planning a birthday party. Let us rejoice that Jesus has come as promised. Let us rejoice that we know the story. Let us rejoice that we are each invited to take part in his birthday celebration. The actual wait was over 2000 years ago. Let us reenact the wait but let us do so with a sense of jubilation because he did come and he is still here among us.
Oh, and have a very Happy Advent!!
-- Roberta M. Meehan, D. Min.