Sunday, 28 November 2021 : First Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the beginning of a new liturgical year and more significantly, the beginning of the season of Advent, the time of preparation for the celebration of Christmas, which we are going to celebrate in about four weeks’ time. This season of Advent is a blessed and great time for all of us to reflect, take a step back and see how our lives have been, and how ready we are to welcome the Lord into our hearts and families, into our lives this Christmas.

If we all walk around and see the shopping malls and many other places, we would have seen the Christmas decorations are already up in full force, in some places even as early as from September onwards. We surely have heard the usual Christmas songs and the festive mood being all around us, with Christmas sales and shopping on the upswing literally everywhere. But before we jump into the craze and start to be swallowed by that Christmas festivities, let us all remind ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ, what Christmas is truly all about.

Christmas is not about all the bling and the festivities, all the glamour, food and drinks, all the merrymaking and songs. What is Christmas, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is, just as its name says, something about Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. It is a celebration that is about and should be focused on Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, Saviour of the world, Our Lord and King, Who unfortunately have often been sidelined and even excluded from His own celebration. It is the celebration of His birth into this world, the moment when He revealed Himself in the flesh to all, after having spent nine months in His mother’s womb.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we heard of the words of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah regarding the salvation that God would send His people Israel, a liberation and redemption for the people of Judah and the descendant of the Israelites coming from the House of David, the Shoot of Righteousness and the Shoot of Jesse. This was the same prophecy and revelation that the Lord had given through His other prophets, especially Isaiah, Jeremiah’s predecessor.

Contextually, at that time the prophet Jeremiah lived in the last years of the kingdom of Judah when it was about to be destroyed and conquered by the Babylonians. For many years, the kingdom and the people of Judah had been beset by various troubles and crushed by their neighbours and enemies. They had not been faithful to the Lord and did what were wicked in the sight of the Lord and men alike. Thus, the Lord meted out His justice and punished their wrongdoing, and they had to endure those sufferings and humiliation as a result of their infidelities.

However, at the same time, God still loved them all wholeheartedly, and ever since the beginning, just as all of us mankind had fallen into sin, He had never given up on us. He has always reached out to us, calling on us to return to Him, sending to us prophets and messengers to reveal His message of truth and love, calling on all of us, His beloved people, to turn away from our wicked and sinful ways, embracing His mercy and compassionate love, and find reconciliation through Him. In that same way, God sent Jeremiah to the people of Judah to deliver the message of Hope.

Christ is the fulfilment of this prophecy that the Lord has given His people through all the ages, the perfect fulfilment of God’s promises and the manifestation of His Love. Through Christ, a world in darkness has seen a great light, that is the true Light of Christ, the Light of His Hope and salvation. And it is this Hope that we are focusing at on this First Sunday of Advent today. Each of the Sundays of Advent has a specific theme to prepare us for the coming of Christmas, which in order is Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Thus, we open this season of Advent with a firm reminder of the Hope in Our Lord and His salvation.

Just as Jeremiah was sent to the people of Judah at the time of their darkest moments to remind them of God’s light, truth and hope, thus all of us are reminded that in Christ lies our true Hope and He is the One that all of us should be heading towards and focusing on, and not on the glamours and excessive celebrations that are not focused on Christ but rather on ourselves and our greedy desires. We must ask ourselves, when we celebrate and rejoice this Christmas, do we rejoice because of Christ and the Hope and Salvation that He brings, or is it because of our own desire for self-indulgence and pleasure?

Today we listened in our Gospel passage today the words of the Lord Jesus Himself to His disciples from the Gospel of St. Luke, which spoke of the end of times and the coming of sufferings for those who are faithful to God, which we have heard in the past week at the end of our previous liturgical year. It is a reminder for us that just as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas, which marks the moment of the Lord’s first coming and appearance in this world, two millennia ago, we are also called to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s Second Coming, which will happen at the end of days.

The Lord has told His disciples and all of us to be prepared for the coming trials and challenges, to be ready for His coming whenever it will be. No one knows the time of His coming and no one has any idea when everything will happen as the Lord has told us, but it will surely happen and we have to be prepared for it. Otherwise, we may realise that we are caught unaware and unprepared, and have an eternity of regret when we are judged to be lacking in faith and are cast to the eternal damnation and darkness. And it is not because God did not love us, but rather because we ourselves have rejected Him and His generous offer of love and forgiveness.

The Lord has reminded us of this so that we may prepare ourselves well and be ready to welcome Him when He comes again. This Advent, all of us are reminded of this reality and that Christmas is not all about merrymaking, partying and excesses in our feasting, jolly making and the gifts and other things we usually associate with Christmas. Instead, it is a time for us to be truly joyful knowing that the Lord has loved us so much that He has given us our Hope and Salvation in Christ, Who was incarnate in the flesh and born the Son of Mary in Bethlehem.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we prepare ourselves this First Sunday of Advent let us all reflect deeply on the Hope that Christ has brought to us by His coming into this world. Let us rediscover the true Spirit of Christmas, not one of excesses and greed, not one of unbridled feasting and desire to outdo one another in opulence, but rather a renewed faith in Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. And it is important that as we prepare ourselves this Advent, we also begin a journey of self-rediscovery, to rediscover our faith in God and to realise that newfound Hope that we have in Him, that no matter how difficult and challenging our lives may be now, the Lord will always be by our side and will provide for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all make good use of this season of Advent to prepare ourselves well, in heart, body and mind so that we will be ready to welcome the Lord in our hearts, into our families and houses, and make Him truly the King of our entire existence. Let us all be the bearers of His Hope and Light, His Truth and His Love to our fellow brothers and sisters all around us. Let us be the witnesses of His loving kindness by showing that same love and generosity to our fellow men, especially to those who are lacking in love and ostracised, the poor and the needy.

May our Advent journey be meaningful and fruitful, and may God be our guide and strength, our compass and light, our hope and courage in the midst of the darkness and trials in this world. May God bless us all and strengthen us, that our Advent preparation and our upcoming Christmas celebrations will be truly wonderful. Amen.

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