Today begins the Church’s new liturgical year, as we enter into the holy season of Advent. Advent, which in Latin means “coming,” is a time set aside by the Church for remembrance and anticipation: to remember His coming as a baby in the manger of Bethlehem, to be the Savior of the world, and to look forward with great anticipation to His promised second coming as Lord, ruler, and judge, when He will bring all of His people into Himself. Both of these comings were prophesied: His first coming by the prophets of old and the angel Gabriel to His mother Mary, the second coming by Our Lord Himself. This season reminds us of His coming and helps prepare us to look forward to His coming again in glory.
The Scripture readings that we are presented with on this first day of this holy season exhort us in a very powerful way to stay awake and alert for the second coming of Our Lord. They call us to alert living, and a daily conversion of life, that we may be ready for that time when Our Lord shall come again to His people as He promised. St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, writes, “It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep…the night is far gone, the day is near…put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:11b-12, 14). Paul urged the church at Rome that Our Lord is coming, and that they should prepare themselves for that great and powerful day. Our Lord Himself, in the Gospel reading today, tells His disciples: “Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming…For the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (Matthew 24:42, 44).
We are urged to stay awake, for we do not know the day nor the hour when Our Lord will come.
Stay awake, and daily repent of our sins and daily commit ourselves anew to Christ.
Stay awake, and see Christ in our neighbor, our family, our friend, our enemy, the immigrant, the orphan, the poor, the sick, the widowed, the persecuted.
Stay awake, and live in the life and love of the Holy Spirit.
Stay awake, and give of ourselves in service to one another in love and common humanity.
Stay awake, and preach the Good News of salvation to all the world through our lives.
Stay awake, and be ready, that Our Lord may not catch us off guard when He returns.
On that day when He returns, and He will return, our Lord will ask if we stayed awake, if we were ready for Him. And what will our answer be? I know that I can’t say with confidence that I have been constantly awake. I know that I can sometimes get sleepy, much like the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, in my effort to stay awake to His presence and to His coming. Maybe you do too? Let us pray with and for one another, and build one another up, that Christ may be built up and glorified. Let us come together as His Church, that we may all be one as He desired, one in prayer, in faith, and in holy anticipation. Let us worship with one another, laugh with one another, weep with one another, and build with one another, recognizing in one another the image of God and the image of His Church. Let us be a beacon of hope, of love, of joy, of acceptance, of holy peace to our often scattered and fragmented world. Let us be an image of Christ to a world that often looks right past Him. Let us prepare together, a world, a kingdom, for Our Lord. Let us stay awake together, that together we might see our salvation as Our Lord comes again.
May this Advent season be one of blessed peace, anticipation, and fruitful joy for you and your family. When Christmas comes, I pray that we are awake and ready to welcome the Christ child in our hearts and into our homes anew, that we might be ready to welcome again Him who comes as Ruler of Heaven of Earth.