First Sunday of Advent – B
“Be watchful! Be alert!” Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel. And this is a fitting reminder as we begin the season of Advent today. Then Jesus goes on to say, “You do not know when the time will come.”
Advent means “coming,” and Advent speaks of the two comings of Christ: His first coming, as we look forward to celebrating the Feast of Christmas, His birth in Bethlehem. And His second coming, that we now anticipate, is when He will come again in glory. So, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”
During this season of Advent, we feature the Advent wreath. It is made out of evergreens, and evergreens live up to their name! They remain fresh, and green is a sign of hope, a sign of life. And so even in these dark cold days of December, we have hope as we wait for the coming of the Lord.
The wreath, of course, is in the form of a circle, saying that that there is no limit to God’s endless love for us: the Eternal Father sent His Divine Son to be conceived in the womb of Mary and to be born in Bethlehem. Jesus is Emmanuel – “God with us” – loving us so much, forgiving our sins, so that we can live with Him forever in the kingdom of heaven.
On the wreath are four candles, for each of the four weeks of Advent, which really represent four periods of human history awaiting the coming of the Messiah. Three of the candles are violet, one is rose. The violet that we wear during the season of Advent is really “a royal purple” as we await the coming of our King, and not “a penitential purple” as in the season of Lent. One of the candles is rose, for the third Sunday of the four, a lighter shade of violet, saying, “Be of good heart. Be of good cheer. Don’t lose hope, for the feast is almost here.”
A candle is lit each week, a symbol of Christ who is the Light of the World. Even in this part of the world, where we are at our darkest time of the year, we proclaim that Christ our Light conquers the darkness of sin and death.
“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” What does that mean for us? It means we wait. And there are two senses of waiting.
The first one is passive waiting. For instance: being at an airport, and your connecting flight home is delayed by weather, and you don’t know for sure when it will arrive, so you just sit there, feeling helpless. That is passive waiting.
The second one is active waiting and it is hope-filled. Here is an example: a little girl is on the street corner for a summer holiday parade. She has a good spot. And she waits – with hope. Then from a distance she hears the marching band. The parade is coming closer. She is actively waiting to see that parade. And she is filled with anticipation.
Sometimes people approach God while waiting passively: “OK God, I believe in you, I know you are there, and I am sure you know I am here, so if you want something let me know.” They do not offer God much personal response at all.
This is so different from actively waiting for God. Like right now – we have come to celebrate this Mass on this First Sunday of Advent. We are not just “watching Mass.” We are “participating.” We are singing, we are praying, we are listening to God speak in the Scriptures. And we are looking forward to His coming to us in Holy Communion.
That is active waiting for the coming of the Lord, and we carry that spirit with us today and in the days that follow in our personal prayer to the Lord – actively waiting for His coming.
I invite you to actively use this season of Advent to go to Confession, to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance, to make the best Confession you have ever made in your life – actively waiting for the coming of the Lord.
Jesus says in the Gospel on this First Sunday of Advent, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”
How do we wait for His coming? We can wait passively, or we can wait actively with hope and anticipation.
And so I ask: “What are we waiting for?” Or better, “Whom are we waiting for?”
The hymn says it so well: “Soon and very soon we are going to see the King.”