As early as October, I started seeing various decorations on stores, shops and magnificent lights hanging on the porch of several houses. I began receiving tons of unsolicited ads in the mail offering incredibly low prices on clothing, toys, chocolates and religious items as possible presents as well as outrageous deals on flights and accommodations on nearly everywhere around the world all for personal pleasures, of course. Enticing as they seem and hard to miss, I take the latter with a grain of salt but this time, I’d grab every chance at any given moment, if time permits. Wink. Well, these signs are clear indications that Christmas is not only up in the air but has arrived in doorsteps. It highlights the value of gift- giving, merry-making, fun galore and demonstrates once and for all, the joyful occasion the season brings.
On the Gospel of Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36
At the opening day of the liturgical year, the church turns to Luke and presents a story about endings and huge calamities. It says that “nations will be in distress, confused by the roaring of the sea and waves, the powers of heaven will be shaken and out of fear people will be fainting.” It looks like 2012, to me. According to the movie, the world will undergo series of catastrophic events and eventually come to an end on December 21, 2012, to be exact, a day shy of my 6th Priesthood Ordination anniversary, too bad. Said prediction was initially discovered in a study conducted by an Indian Scientist claiming that every 5,000 years, the universe enters into a process of purification based on the Mayan calendar and a new era will surface. Whether it’s noticeably true or not, global warming and the likes, this disaster epic calls us into action.
Just when almost everyone’s level of excitement about shopping, caroling, partying and hopes of a perfect Christmas is on the rise, listening to a doom and gloom Gospel on the first Sunday of Advent seems odd. It is not easy to preach a text that depicts the world as turning upside down and man being frightened, to a congregation who cannot wait to move on to the joyful spirit of Christmas. A heightened expectation on the part of the people to hear messages of comfort, solidarity and recognition are, for sure, better options as the season draws near.
The Gospel by far sets a different tone compared to popular imagination and cultural practices that inhabit people’s lives. In it, there are no city sidewalks, no busy sidewalks and no holiday style, which make us think otherwise. Luke’s message thus, is quite fascinating and abundantly clear that there are other signs and realities that deserve our attention for the coming of Christ such as sinfulness that lurks in human’s heart and disastrous events that turn individuals into despair, to name at least two.
The season of Advent then highly demands a distinct way of preparation than what the shopping malls and glitzy catalogs suggest. It requires a profound sense of sobriety, remarkable patience and deep spiritual disposition on what the birth of Christ and his second coming have in store to a country whose economy is slowly recovering from financial collapse.
According to the text, when these things unfold, a relative few will be struck with great anxiety and bring terror in the hearts of many. In fact, some will be caught unaware as their lives become intensely focused on selfish desires. Others will be overwhelmingly wrapped up in their sinful lives perhaps, by failing to see the brokenness and evil as history continually shows. And yet, for those of you who believe and are spiritually grounded, do not hide in the confines of your houses. The time has come for you to see the son of Man coming in the clouds. Stand in confidence, instead and lift your heads high for your redemption is close at hand.
As preparations escalate, many of us will be lost at numerous trappings. There will be lots of distractions. Our time and energy will be spent in wrapping up presents and overnight parties. It’s understandably human to fit into this equation but not reasonably Christian to let this season pass without spending precious little moments with God.
In the midst of all the hype, the Gospel isn’t a message of doom but opens up huge possibilities for reconciliation, repentance, spiritual healing and a real sense of joy in encountering Christ that hopefully will pervade in our celebration and thereupon, fill our lives.
By the way, what does it mean to be ready?
Signs point to something greater than them and help us understand deeper realities. They provide us advance warning so that we have every reason to prepare and believe that the impending return of Christ will take place and is actually imminent. In conjunction with this, we should never allow ourselves to be caught off guard by leading lives unbecoming of a Christian. We have to make every effort to look at our lives from the mandate of the Gospel. Moreover, our decisions must not be based on arbitrary preferences that might ruin our lives but let Christ be the sole teacher and the church, be the guardian of our souls. Thanks God for the warning, then. On the other hand, the serious efforts made by society even if they lean towards consumerism must not be undermined because they too promote the spirit of Christmas.
Luke had a profound and growing awareness that following Jesus is defined by paying attention to warning signs and being vigilant at all times. Taken altogether, this attitude of watchful readiness, whatever that means, is closely associated with the notion of judgment in the end and inextricably linked with the coming of Christ once again in the flesh. As difficult as it is to comprehend, Jesus deserves a comeback. Amen.