My homily: first Sunday of Advent 2018

1st Sunday of Advent 2018 (c)

Christmas is such a busy time there’s hardly time to think about anything else. Let alone this sunday’s readings with their message of the second coming of Christ. They’re just twenty three shopping days left. Some people have done their shopping already. Yesterday I already received two christmas cards. I heard on the radio about someone who’d bought all their presents last January, during the sales. But there was just one problem: they couldn’t remember where they’d hidden them.

Yes, Christmas for most people is simply a busy time, and not a lot else. It’s interesting that we speak of Christmas, because in the church we call this season Advent. Christmas doesn’t begin till….Christmas: December 25th. But even for us Christians we’re all caught up in the Christmas rush. It’s not as if we don’t shop like everyone else. Besides, all the shopping and the lights, and the trees, the carols, and the Santa Clauses, do give this season a special atmosphere. I was singing with our choir yesterday at Kensington High Street station. It was really special; a great start to our christmas preparation.

I remember being in Rome for Advent and Christmas. There was nothing before the Christmas midnight mass: no decorations in the streets, carols, cribs, Santa clauses, no noffink. The real celebration begins, rightly so, after Christmas day. For us in England the religious content of christmas isn’t there for many people. They’ve forgotten why they’re celebrating.

But for us Christian this time means more than just shopping. Advent is meant to be a time of preparation. We prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ anew into our lives. The readings today are a little bit scary though: there’s no much about a little baby, and cribs, and shepherds and wise men. It’s all rather different, depressing even. We read in the gospel, “There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars…men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken etc.”. One might wonder what’s this got to do with Christmas. And the answer is: it hasn’t., but it has a lot to do with Advent. And, Advent is about the first as well as the second coming. The second coming being at the end of time.

When I was a child I used to see a lot more “end of the world” people; the kind that wore sandwich boards with words like: “the end of the world is nigh”. As children we used to laugh at these people, but, the gospel this morning isn’t that dissimilar. It’s not the sort of thing we like to be reminded of. Besides, we’ve got Christmas to think of first; then after Christmas it’s Easter; then the summer holidays, then after them there’s…well, Christmas again. And so it goes on. We’re too busy planning the future to often think of the here and now. It is true we don’t want doom and gloom merchants putting the fear of God into us, but nor should we run away from the realities of life by being busy all the time.

Advent is a time of preparation. It’s a God-given time. It’s a special time. Perhaps we can best use it by thanking God; thanking him for all the good things He has given us. Christmas does tend to bring out the best in people. People give more to the poor at Christmas. We buy presents for each other and cards. We get a kick out of seeing someone open their presents: it’s a way of saying thank you to them for being who they are. We don’t say that in words, of course, but that’s what it means. So, maybe this Christmas, this Advent, we can try that much harder to be nice to people, to be that much more thoughtful and generous. Above all to make this Christmas the happiest ever for those people we know and love; and, maybe even, if possible, for those we don’t particularly love: now that would be a good way to prepare for Christ first or second coming.

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