These last few weeks we've heard of great violence, upheavals and tragedies in the world: the terror attacks in Paris, the downing of the Russian plane, the police on high alert in Washington D.C. and in New York, as well as the worldwide manhunt for terrorists in Europe. Some people are glued to their TV while others have tuned out because of the continuing terrible events. Some have even said it might be the end times like today's Gospel reports. Let me reassure you that this is not the end times, but these events should heighten our awareness that we need to change our ways. Advent challenges us to do this!
Advent calls us to stand back and become more aware of our thinking, acting and being during this season of the church calendar. Advent is the time to slow down and become more aware of our spiritual well-being and of the needs of people around us. The gospel reading from The Message translation uses words and phrases different from those we are used to hearing this time of year. It first says, “Be on your guard!” It might surprise us that we are encouraged to become so “alert” that we are actually “on our guard!” The translation admonishes us to beware of neglecting our responsibilities to one another as followers of Jesus. It further warns us “not to be dulled by parties and drinking and shopping!” I think that adding “shopping” to that listing is very telling. I drove by Brookfield Square yesterday and was amazed at the number of people trying to park in the lots for Black Friday specials!
Some of my family and friends spent hours upon hours going through coupons and computer readouts about the “specials” and how much money they were going to save. (I am not judging, but the time spent is truly amazing!) The Gospel reading goes on to say that we ought to pray constantly to have the wits to endure through all of this.
The first reading tells us that Judah (the Hebrew land) will be safe and Jerusalem (their Temple city) will remain secure. Those verses penned by the prophet Jeremiah meant a lot to the people who lived there at the time.
Today's Gospel is not meant to scare us so we won't sleep at night nor become so agitated that we are paralyzed with fear. But it is an important wake-up call to spend quality time setting our priorities in order and recognizing our responsibilities both to God and to the people around us. The Gospel calls us to be more aware of the wider world in which we live and to be more responsive to the needs of other people.
Advent Scriptures are not meant to scare us; they are calls to reflection and action.
Every Christmas tree, wreath, ornament and song of good cheer should remind us that we have each and all been given the greatest possible gift which is Jesus the Christ! Be grateful, be joyous. We are a saved people because we wholeheartedly embrace the gift that is Jesus!