Sunday, 27 November 2016 : First Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the beginning of the new liturgical year cycle as well as the beginning of the season of Advent, a season of preparation and spiritual journey for all of us Christians as we prepare ourselves to celebrate the feast of Christmas. On this day we begin the time of spiritual renewal and discernment, as we are getting ready for the commemoration of the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

And as we begin today’s celebrations and the season of Advent in general, let us all take into consideration what we have just heard from the Scripture readings, where we see how the prophet Isaiah prophesied about the coming of the Lord, Who would come to reveal His ways and truth to the whole world, that everyone and every nations may no longer bicker and fight over one another and with one another, but live in peace and harmony in the Lord.

And this prophecy has been fulfilled in Christ, the Saviour Who has come into the world and fulfilled all the promises God had made for His people, and in this season of Advent we are preparing ourselves to celebrate His coming into the world, both that of the past and the future, as the meaning of the term Advent, taken from the Latin word ‘Adventus’ which is translated into English as the arrival or the coming of someone or something. In that word, there is the connotation associated with expectation and waiting, as the precursor to something that is to come.

We may indeed wonder, brothers and sisters in Christ, on what we are truly preparing ourselves for in this season of Advent, but we do not need to look far beyond what we can already seen around us, in how the world and many people celebrate and rejoice during Christmas, and how many of us perceive Christmas and its festivities. Advent cannot be understood separately from Christmas as its existence is intimately and closely tied with that of the celebration of the birth of our Lord.

While in the beginning, Christmas was indeed a joyous season and time when all the faithful rejoice over the Nativity or the birth of our Lord Jesus, God made Man, over time, as we can clearly observe in our world today, Christ has become forgotten and ignored during the anniversary of the moment He was born into the world. The birthday Boy from Whom we got the name ‘Christ’mas has been ignored and overlooked on His own big day.

Instead, many of us and the world celebrate it with many forms of secular joy amd celebrations, festivities and feasts that are not centred in the figure of Christ, and what many children are familiar with in this world are figures like Santa Claus, his supposedly elvish helpers, magical reindeers, all of which elements are distractions for many of us, especially for our children, in how we ought to be truly celebrating Christmas.

We often associate Christmas with great feasts and gatherings, where our children enjoy the parties and the gifts they received, and we worry about what we are to wear to such an occasion, worrying about what we will say when we meet with our relatives and friends, and even what kind of decorations we ought to be putting up this Christmas, whether it should be cones, or stars, or statues of Angels, or bells, or whatever other things out there we tend to be worried about when Christmas time is approaching.

All these things are what have distracted us from our true focus and the true purpose of Christmas. If we do not understand what Christmas is about, then our joy and celebrations will be meaningless and empty, and we will not benefit a single bit from it. And that is why this season of Advent is very important for us, as a time for us to take a step back, stop whatever we are doing and reassess ourselves and ask ourselves this question, what is Christmas? What does it mean to us?

Let us all understand, brothers and sisters in Christ, that in Christmas, we are celebrating Christ Who was yesterday, today and future. He came that time two millennia ago, as the fulfilment of the long promised salvation, and that was the moment when our Lord Himself took up our form and our flesh, becoming Man like one of us and entered into this world. But then, through what He had done, He has saved us all by His death on the cross, and offered His own Body and Blood to us all, so that all of us who share in the Eucharist will be saved.

And that is what we celebrate, the Christmas of the past, when the Lord first came into the world, and the Christmas of the present, as the Lord Himself is present and living in each and every one of us who have worthily received His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. And finally, we celebrate the future coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Christmas of the future, the day we are looking forward to, as He has promised, that He will come again at the end of time to bring all of His faithful ones into eternal glory and life.

Therefore, we can see that Christmas is indeed about Christ, and all the other celebrations and joys we celebrate are secondary. Our primary and main joy comes about because Christ our Lord has been willing to do what needed to be done for the sake of our salvation, and because of that He willingly emptied Himself and came down, the Divine Word made flesh, to be one of us, so that by that action, He may unite us with Himself, and by dying on the cross, sealed away and destroyed all of the fetters and chains binding us that is our sins.

We rejoice in Christmas because now we know that death is not the end of everything. There is indeed hope and light in our journey, and that light and hope is Jesus our Lord, the One Who ought to be commemorated and celebrated in Christmas. He is the Lord and Master of Christmas, the One Who ought to be the focus of all our attention as we prepare to celebrate this annual solemnity of Christmas.

This Advent season is one of preparation and also of longing. We prepare ourselves body, heart, mind and soul to welcome the Lord, both He Who came into the world two millennia ago, and He Who comes into us as we receive the Eucharist, and He Who will come again as He had promised, to succour and bless His faithful ones, all the same Lord Jesus our Lord and King.

And we long for Him just as the people of Israel once long for the promised land, after a long journey in the desert for forty years. By their disobedience they had been made to wander in the desert and perish, but those who were faithful persevered on and eventually were granted entry into the land of milk and honey, the lands promised to their forefathers. In the same manner, we also long for the Lord and for His coming, which timing we are not aware of.

Yes, that is also the essence of today’s Gospel, which reminds us that the coming of the Lord will catch many people by surprise precisely because they were not expecting it to happen. And when He comes again, what will He find in the world? How will He find us at that moment? Will we be worthy in His eyes because we have obeyed Him and fulfilled His will? Or will we instead be caught in wickedness and in sin?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is what we really need to think about and consider during this season of Advent, right from the very beginning. Are we prepared for the Lord? Are our bodies, minds, hearts and souls ready for the Lord in case He comes again? Are we ready to celebrate Christmas with the right mindset and right attitude?

Let us all take some time to reflect on these, and do our best to prepare ourselves thoroughly, so that this season and time of Advent will be useful and meaningful for us, and being fully utilised, we will be ready to celebrate Christmas in the correct manner, having great joy and celebrations, but not for our own sake or for our own glory, but instead, placing the Lord Jesus Christ at the centre of all of our celebrations and our joy.

May the Lord Jesus bless us and keep us in His grace and love, and may He strengthen our wavering spirit and faith inside us. May He help us to persevere through the challenges and difficulties, resisting the many temptations of the world, so that we may be always ready no matter what time or moment it is, for the sake of His glorious Second Coming, that when He comes, He will find us ready and true to Him in faith, and thus be worthy of eternal life with Him in joy. May God bless us all. Amen.