On this first Sunday of Advent, the word of God offers a timely message. For the sights and sounds of the season bring multiple distractions into our daily routines. There is the sensory overload of festive food and drink, and the stress of the inevitable commercial activity that marks the season. To-do lists and extra errands overwhelm the days and weeks leading to Christmas.
At the same time, the liturgical readings of Advent invite us to travel another path. God’s word challenges us to slow down, to pause and to take time to fix our gaze on God. We are invited to take the first step in spiritual preparations for the coming of the Lord.
“Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand. Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life,” Jesus says to his disciples. How did the disciples react to these stark words of Jesus?
Surely they must have been startled by Jesus’ warning of imminent signs and wonders in the sun, the moon and the stars. The natural signs that Jesus speaks of point to the reality that something is not quite right with the visible world as we see and experience it. In the midst of the turmoil of creation, Jesus says the Son of Man will be revealed in a cloud coming in power and great glory.
So how is a disciple of Jesus to respond? Is chaos and confusion the final word on the human condition? Jesus gives his disciples, and us, a powerful answer that fills us with confidence and trust. He also gives us a path to follow on our Advent journeys of faith.
Vigilance and prayer are the most fitting attitudes in response to the present and future turmoil of the world. While we may never experience the signs that Jesus warns about, there are events and daily happenings that can disturb our peace of mind. They can be in the natural order or in the order of human relationships — political, economic or personal turmoil.
The headline news each day points to the fact that there is something not quite right with the human condition. Whether we like it or not, the confusion and chaos of the world affects us in the daily walk of life.
Jesus reminds his disciples that the anxieties and the stress of daily life are not the last word on the human condition. So we turn our eyes to God in Advent to be filled with expectant hope that God becomes one of us to free us from the chaos and darkness of this world.
In Advent hope, I believe that God’s word is a light that gives me the strength of faith to say with confidence, “speak to me, Lord.”