Happy first Sunday of Advent! Let’s begin on a pleasant note why don’t we. We have begun this holy season, this time of preparation for the celebration of the incarnation. It is time of joy and generosity. It is a time for parties and celebrations. It is time for sending cards and buying gifts. It is time for visiting people and a time for preparing for visitors. What are the readings for today trying to do? Instead of getting with the joy of the season we have a downer. The world is going to end, get ready. You don’t know when he is coming so don’t be caught off guard. If one will be taken and the other left, make sure that you are the one who will be taken. You don’t want to be left behind.
We have just celebrated Thanksgiving, followed by the all-important black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. Today, I guess is the day to be chastised. “You’ve bought into the consumerism of the world!” “You’ve forgotten the true meaning of Christmas!” “Instead of preparing for Jesus, you’ve been preparing for Santa!” For those of us who believe, Christmas didn’t start the day after Thanksgiving, the 12 days of Christmas ends on the 6th of January. Wal-Mart and Macy’s are destroying Christmas!
That isn’t my message today, because I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that Macy’s and Wal-Mart are destroying Christmas. I don’t really care if they say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. The truth is, what we will celebrate on the 24th of December, the mystery of the incarnation is something that the “world” will never be able to understand much less destroy.
I will confess I like this season, not just the season of Advent, but also this season of getting ready for Santa. I like the decorations in the street; I like the music. I like getting and sending cards and I sure do like the Christmas cookies. I like to buy gifts for others, and I also like to get gifts.
The message of the Gospel for today emphasizes two activities: vigilance and hope. It isn’t vigilance and fear, but vigilance and hope. Yes we are called to be vigilant; we are called to be prepared to watch out. Jesus uses the image of a thief, we are afraid of thieves and rightly so. Thieves by their very nature violate us, they take from us and many times they are violent. How many times have we heard stories of someone who was killed and the headline is, “A robbery gone wrong.”
But it isn’t the thief that we are waiting for, no we are waiting for Jesus and that is why vigilance is only one side of the coin, the other side is. We aren’t waiting for Santa nor or we waiting for a thief, we are waiting for Jesus. Jesus Christ, the word made flesh is what we are hoping for; Jesus is the one we are watching out for.
The truth is the world in which we live can let us down. We have just ended a very nasty presidential election, we face a divided nation; the war in Syria continues and the refugee crisis only seems to get worse. We might not get the perfect gift on Christmas morning, and the people we love may let us down. My football team might have as dismal a record as Michigan State. I can also let people down, people might expect more of me, and I have hurt people in the past. We might fail, but Jesus never fails. What we hope for in Jesus is a sure thing; God always comes through in the end. God always blesses us with love and peace. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, we don’t know what we will get for Christmas, but we do know that God is always faithful: yesterday, today and tomorrow. What we hope for is sure; this is the joy of advent. Our hope is not for the perfect gift; our hope isn’t the Christmas dinner that goes off without a hitch; our hope isn’t that there will be no fights this year; no, our hope is in Jesus Christ. We are not waiting for Santa, no we are waiting for Jesus and we can be sure that he will come.
To keep vigil means that we live with insecurities, look at the sick in the hospital, prisoners, people who are waiting the results of a cancer test, immigration reform. To keep vigil means that we know that we have failed in the past, but we can ask for forgiveness and begin over. We are called to be alert in the living presence of a God who loves us without fail.
So if you want to go shopping, shop! If you want to decorate the house, decorate it! If you want to have a party, throw one! And if someone invites you, by all means go. We simply have to remember that for us Christians our time of advent is not just a season of hope it is also a time of vigilance and we can only be vigilant if we have Jesus in our lives.