1st Sunday in Advent
December 3, 2017
First Reading: Isaiah 63:16B-17, 19B, 64:2-7
Responsorial Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Gospel: Mark 13:33-37
Commercial interests have inflicted on American culture a malady best described as “Christmas creep.” The holiday season used to begin with Thanksgiving, but department stores and discount marts have been featuring Christmas displays and having Christmas sales long before Thanksgiving. Radio stations have been playing Christmas music. Some families have already mailed their Christmas cards and put up Christmas decorations in their homes. Even churches are not exempt. Prominently displaying an Advent wreath in the sanctuary makes the liturgical season of Advent appear to be the “countdown to Christmas.” The liturgy, however, does not direct our attention to the mystery of Christ’s birth until the Fourth Sunday of Advent, which falls on Christmas Eve this year.
There is nothing “Christmasy” about today’s Scripture lessons. They direct our attention not to the past–to the memory of Christ’s birth–but to the future, to Christ’s return. The prophet asks God to hasten the day of the Lord’s coming: “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.”The Apostle reminds us that we have “every spiritual gift as (we) wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”The gospel lesson reminds us of Jesus’ advice to”be watchful! Be alert!” Advent is the time that the Church reminds us to be watchful and alert because Jesus is coming again.
What will Jesus’ return mean for believers? I saw a bumper sticker once with this message: “Jesus is coming soon and is he angry,” except it used a vulgarity for the word “angry.” Actually, the Lord’s return will be an occasion for triumph, joy, and happiness. Jesus is coming to complete his work on earth, but this does not mean that believers have no role to play as we wait for the Lord’s return. The watchfulness of Advent is not a passive waiting, as if the transformation of this world is Christ’s work alone. Advent is a time to get moving again–to reinvigorate–to recommit ourselves to the mission of God.
The Christian’s commitment to the gospel involves participation in the mission of God to make of this world just what God created it to be. Faith in the certainty of the Lord’s return gives believers the assurance that nothing they do to make this a better world is ever insignificant or done in vain. When Jesus returns, he will take our feeble efforts at transforming our world and join them to his own. He will then present a new world to God–a world of justice and peace–a world full of people who have been reconciled with one another–a world which conforms to God’s will–a world in which sin and death will be no more.
Believers, then, can look to the future with confidence and assurance. The battle has already been fought and won. Our victory over sin and death is certain. That is the reason the Apostle “gives thanks to God on (our) account.” He knows that God “will keep us firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is the reason we pray during Advent: Come, Lord Jesus!
Rev. Leslie Hoppe, OFM
Carol Stuhlmueller, CP, Distinguished Professor
of Old Testament Studies