The First Sunday of Advent [B]

The First Sunday of Advent [B]
Isaiah 63:16-17,19; 64:2-7  +  1 Corinthians 1:3-9  +  Mark 13:33-37
November 29, 2020

“Be watchful!  Be alert!”

The entire Gospel is filled with paradox, but the Gospel narratives of Advent and Christmas seem especially so.  These Gospel passages highlight two paradoxes:  first, the all-powerful God becoming a weak human; and second, God becoming man in order to destroy death by His dying.

The English writer G. K. Chesterton wrote a book about human history in general, and specifically about Jesus’ place at the center of human history.  It’s titled The Everlasting Man.  Chesterton writes at length about Bethlehem, and describes the paradox that Mary held in her arms and gazed upon the face of her Creator and Savior.  This is the paradox, Chesterton wrote, “that the hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle.”  The infinite God, in other words, is right under our noses.  Nonetheless, His Presence in our lives often remains a mystery.

Jesus opens the door to Advent with a demand:  “What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”  We are to watch for God Himself.  Advent and Christmas are such richly symbolic seasons that it’s easy to lose sight of God’s most obvious presence in our lives.  Where, then, do we find God?  Advent prepares us for Christmastide by looking in three places.

First:  history reveals Jesus to us.  Each Advent we commemorate, proclaim, and celebrate in the Sacred Liturgy the historical events that truly took place over two thousand years ago:  that “for us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”  During Advent, we look back at the life of Mary bearing Jesus in her womb for nine months.  We reflect on Joseph toiling to protect Mary and her unborn Child.  Through this reflection, we’re aided in two way:  by the moral examples of those in the Gospel, and by the grace that we receive because of what God accomplished 2000 years ago.

Second:  the future reveals Jesus to us.  That’s why the Gospel passage, on this First Sunday of Advent, is not about Mary bearing Jesus, or Joseph keeping watch.  The Gospel Reading focuses, instead, upon the future:  upon the particular judgment of your life that Jesus will make on the day of your death, and upon the Final Judgment that Jesus will make at His Second Coming.

Jesus came into this world two thousand years ago to save mankind.  Jesus will come at the end of time to judge mankind.  But Jesus is also right under our noses.  Here we see the third focus of Advent.  The solemnity of Jesus in the past and the majesty of Jesus in the future can overshadow the Presence of Jesus in the present.  This is the Jesus who wants to dwell within your own soul today.

You may think of yourself as simple, and maybe even unimportant in the grand scheme of the world.  You may recognize yourself as a poor sinner.  But it’s because of that spiritual poverty that Jesus wants to dwell in your soul, so that you can live your life in Him.  It’s in that poverty that Jesus wills to dwell, as He dwelt in a stable near Bethlehem.