1st Sunday of Advent ( A ) 2019
“Stay awake”. “The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect”. You have been warned! It’s a bit scary, isn’t it. “The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect”. Play imaginary piano: dedededah! It doesn’t sound very chrismassy does it? More like Lent. But the first Sunday of Advent is like this; you see there are two comings of Christ: the first when he was born, which we celebrate at Christmas, and then the second coming, at the end of time.
Now over the centuries there have always been people who predict when this second coming is going to be. The last time was in 2011. I remember it well, because I was in Malawi at the time and there were huge bill-boards, announcing that we should get ready for the end times. And some people, perhaps many, believed it. It was the idea of an evangelist in America. When the second coming didn’t happen, he apologized and said he’d miscalculated. He is probably going to announce another end of the world any day now.
I spent four and a half years in Jerusalem. I was there for the millennium, the year 2000. Well, there were people coming from all over to prepare for the end of the world. I remember a man with a long white beard, dark blazer and jeans, carrying a briefcase, with “Elijah” painted on the side. He thought he was the prophet Elijah, he is to come before the end of the world. The Israelis eventually kicked him out. Then there were those who tried to make their way to Armageddon. There’s an actual place in the Holy Land called Armageddon. I used to pass it every time I went to Nazareth from Haifa. It was about halfway. You came to a crossroads: straight on for Haifa, behind you for Haifa and left for Armageddon. The Israelis authorities were kept busy that year. Anyway, the year 2000 came and went and still no end of the world. So we can all relax.
I like to look at it this way; during Advent we prepare for Christmas. And if we do that well then we prepare for the second coming as well. How do we prepare for Christmas? Well, I don’t know about you but I write a lot of Christmas cards. It takes me ages because I’ve so many to write, but I enjoy it. It is my way of telling family and friends that I remember them at this special time. It is a way of saying I have not forgotten you and even more than that, that I love you. Unlike the rest of the world I don’t go out shopping; that’s one of the advantages of having a vow of poverty: you don’t have money to spend. So I miss the crowds and the pushing and shoving and trying to think what so and so will like. I offer this pleasure up!!
Advent is a time of waiting, but not passively; we’re not like a patient in a waiting room just sitting there waiting to be called. No, we are active, we get things ready for Christmas, we write Christmas cards and buy presents. In this way we wish to make Christmas special for ourselves but above all for others. And if this is true, then you will be ready for the coming of Christ anew, which ever one it is: the first of the last.