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First Sunday of Advent
November 28, 2004
Isa. 2: 1-5 Rom. 13: 11-14 Matt 24:37-44
Meaning of Advent: Waiting for Jesus
By Rev. Jeffrey Lawrence
When I was a kid, my friends and I used to spend countless hours playing
make believe. We played school; some kids were the teachers, others were
the pupils. We played house. We played cowboys and Indians. Our bicycles
and wagons became long freight trains and trucks and fancy cars. We played
circus. We had pretend battles, and all of us were soldiers. Some kids
even played church and Mass.
Of course, we all knew that we really werent
teachers or cowboys or soldiers or circus performers. But we had lots
of fun making believe. I know kids today do too.
I think one of the reasons I love being a priest is because we still can
play make believe! And we can play right here in church. In fact, its
a kind of game that Mother Church wants us to play!
Ordinarily, we are very solemn at Mass. We know that the Sacred Mysteries
are serious, and we come before God with dignity and respect and great
But today, on the first Sunday of Advent, the Church
invites us to play make believe. And what we pretend today is that Jesus
never was born! We play that were living thousands of years before
Christ was ever born in Bethlehem. We make believe that the world never
experienced the first Christmas, and that were still waiting for
Jesus to come into the world.
Naturally, we know that Christ really was born 2000 years ago. . . so
whats the point of this kind of game?
One purpose of Advent is to transport us back to the Christ-less, Redeemer-less
days before Bethlehem. Mother Church wants to show us the contrast between
then and now, and make us realize how lost and miserable man was without
Christ. St. Paul suggests what it was like. In the days before Christ,
man was asleep. He was in a spiritual stupor. His life was wrapped not
in the armor of light, but in deeds of darkness. Man could only slog through
the mud. But even in those dark days, the good people of Israel had hope.
They longed and prayed for the Messiah. They remembered Gods promise,
and they craved that it would be fulfilled.
Try to picture what this kind of life was like. As
we play make believe and try to bring this image alive, another purpose
of Advent then comes into view one which is much more personal
and immediate for us. The Church hopes to stir up our hearts and make
us yearn for the Savior in our own life, as we realize a sobering truth:
in the old days, Christ was absent because he had not yet come into the
world but in our day, Christ seems absent because we push him away.
In other words, hes here, but weve rejected him. How sad and
tragic this is. Advent uses many reminders to speak to our heart: somber
purple vestments, subdued church ceremonies, and many prayers of longing.
As we take in these outward signs around us, we should be constantly reminded
of how desperately we need Jesus in our life.
So we set ourselves a goal: Christmas! Its just four weeks away.
With Gods grace and some self-discipline on our own part, we can
do our best not to get totally swept up in all the commercialism of this
season. Yes, the parties, the shopping, the excitement are joyful
but we cant let these eclipse the real meaning and infinite value
As the prophet Isaiah prompts us, we must instead let God instruct us
in His ways so we can walk in his paths. Advent is a time for ridding
our souls and our lives of sin and a time for penance to atone
for our past sins. Advent is a season for intense prayer, especially a
time to beg Christ to come into our lives, our families, our church, our
world . . . because we need him so very much.
All this leads us to still a third purpose of Advent:
to prepare us for Jesus coming again at the end of the world. For
those in a state of grace, what a wonderful time this will be! But for
those trapped in the vice of mortal sin, its hard to imagine a more
fearsome day. Again and again, Our Lord pleads with us to stay awake and
be prepared, because we do not know the day or the hour. Just as Jesus
slipped into the world quietly and without advance notice on the very
first Christmas Day, so will it be when the world grinds to an end. Isnt
it ironic that so many people think Our Lords Second Coming falls
into the "lets pretend" category. . . when, of course,
nothing could be more real.
Dear children of the Lord, as we begin a new church
year, now is the time to prepare for all three of these advents: Jesus
birth at Bethlehem
his coming into our hearts by grace in just a
few weeks at Christmas
and his final coming at the end of the world.
Let us beg God for his special blessings to make this season a holy and
blessed time. Amen.
Suggested reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2742-2745.
Reverend Jeffrey Lawrence is a priest of the
Diocese of Peoria, Ill. serving at St. Stephens Parish in Streator,
Ill. A convert from Judaism, Fr. Lawrence practiced law, was creative
director and a principal in an advertising agency, and was a consumer
magazine publisher before his ordination to the priesthood as a "late
This homily originally appeared in Homiletic
& Pastoral Review, America's leading pastoral magazine
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