Homily for the 1st Sunday in Advent Year C 2021
How many of us have ever had this experience: you pick up the phone and call a place of business or an agency and you hear right away: “Your call is very important to us… please continue to hold for the next available agent…” And so we wait or hang up in frustration. Left on my desk a few weeks ago, Bernice, our most efficient and very pastoral secretary, left this cartoon… it shows a skeleton holding a phone receiver, listening to these same words… “Your call is very important to us… please continue to hold for the next available agent…” I put it on my refrigerator.
My dear friends, today we enter the First Sunday of Advent… a time of waiting and preparing for the birthday of Jesus at Christmas and his Second Coming. For many of us, this is both a busy and difficult season. It is a season that we prepare our homes with decorations, baking, buying and wrapping of presents. But also Advent is a time of Spiritual preparedness, to open our hearts and make room for Jesus.
And yet, like the opening experience I shared with you, no one wants to wait. We live in an instant society where everything is at our finger tips… literally. As a society, ‘we are in a hurry!’ Despite all the developments in technology and services, we still have to wait. It wasn’t uncommon for my mother to say, “we’ll just have to wait our turn.” I remember her Advents so much preparing for a large family, especially the Christmas shopping… in the days of ‘lay away,’ at Zellers and Kmart. She had to wait, paying each week until her purchases were released.
This past Friday, I waited for someone to return my call, while someone in another part of the parish waited for me to call them back. I waited in traffic to cross the Harbour Bridge. I waited in a drive-thru lineup to get a quick bite before my next appointment. And before the week was out, I too, was told, “you call is very important to us, please continue to hold…” And we are all waiting for life to return to some sort of normalcy wanting this pandemic to be over. Waiting is all part of life.
In our own worship spaces, we have a very visible symbol of waiting: our Advent Wreath with only One candle lit and in time, the 3 others will follow. But this is not an ‘empty’ time of waiting. We are given this time of ‘waiting’ to prepare ourselves not only physically but also spiritually, to open our hearts wider to Jesus, to embrace his love and be that love for others.
Many people find Advent difficult to ‘get into’ and to ‘stay there’ with all the distractions going on around us. And yet, Jesus reminds us to “be on guard; stay alert at all times: praying, gaining strength to meet the challenges ahead.” Jesus spent his ministry showing his followers (and us) the way to live in God’s love, calmly and not to get distracted or sidetracked by the attractions or difficulties of this world, which can easily happen. We are called to remain focused on Jesus, not only during Advent, but always. We do this through prayer and by entering into right relationship with each other, to be a loving presence for those in need and not to get so caught up in our own lives that we miss these opportunities.
Advent is a season to be enjoyed… not endured. It is a time to meet the various challenges of slowing down, preparing and waiting. And regardless to what the secular world tells us to ‘skip Advent and celebrate Christmas now’ (again the influence from our instant society that we live in); Advent is a rich season that can draw us deeper into the mystery of God’s love.
My maternal grandfather, “Elmer,” lived to be a very old man. I remember how difficult it was to walk with him… anywhere… to slow actually slow down and to walk beside him. As a teenager, he knew I was chomping at the bit to pick up the speed a just a little. But he would just smile at me and say, “what’s the big hurry?” Now as I get older, I see the wisdom in what he was trying to tell me: “don’t be so focused on where you’re going that you miss of who and what is around you along the way.”
Every Advent, I think of his wisdom and those unforgettable words he spoke: “don’t be so focused on where you’re going (Christmas) that you miss of who and what (opportunities) is around you along the way.”. Each week, Jesus comes among us in the Word proclaimed and the Eucharist shared. And we meet Jesus in one another. As we wait and prepare, may these various encounters draw us closer in faith and love to Jesus and to each other.
Yes, Advent can be a trying time for many and we do not want to wear ourselves out, rather let us take some time… a few moments each day to stop and reflect on, “Come Lord Jesus.” Or for me, I use those words of wisdom from Grampy Sherwood: “what’s the big hurry?” Amen.