Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday the Church marks the beginning of both the new liturgical year cycle as well as the season of Advent. This season of Advent marks the time of preparation and spiritual discernment for all of us as we are getting ourselves ready to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour at Christmas. Thus this season of Advent is meant to be a time of recollection and realignment in our lives that we may truly be ready and worthy to celebrate Christmas, not the worldly ways of how Christmas is celebrated but rather the true Christmas, the celebration of the birth or Nativity of Our Lord Jesus, as we welcome Him into our midst, to dwell among us and be with us, God made manifest and tangible. Through Him we have seen the love that God has for each and every one of us.
In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the Lord spoke through Isaiah, His prophet to the people of the southern kingdom of Judah, speaking of what will happen at the end of time, when God will raise Jerusalem and His people to the highest of the highest, where He shall rule over them forever, and the people from every nations and every ends of the Earth will come flocking to Him, referring to how God will rule not just over Israel or Judah, but also over the whole world, over all of mankind. Through His prophecy made via Isaiah, we all heard how the Lord reassured His people, and hence us all, that He will be with us, and will raise us up on the last day, when He will judge all the living and the dead, from all time, and those who are worthy will be brought into His everlasting kingdom while those who are found unworthy will be cast out into eternal damnation.
Contextually, this message was presented by the Lord to His people at a rather low time in the psyche and experience of the people of God then, the descendants of Israel and Abraham. That was because at that time, the northern kingdom of Israel had just recently fallen to the conquering forces of the Assyrians, who had destroyed the kingdom and its capital city of Samaria, and brought many of the people of the northern kingdom into exile, scattering them off in distant lands away from their ancestral homeland. Not only that, but the Assyrian king Sennacherib even almost destroyed Jerusalem as well if not for God’s mighty intervention. All of that happened because of their constant disobedience and rebellion against God, and they had to face the consequences for their lack of faith and their betrayal against God. But the Lord still reached out to His people and wanted them all to be reunited with Him, and hence, He gave them this reassurance through His prophets like Isaiah and many others.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard the words of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples and all the people assembled that the Son of Man will come again at the end of time, at the moment when no one will expect and when many will be caught being lax and unaware of the fact that they have to account for their lives and existence before God, and answer for their failures to follow Him and obey His Law and commandments. St. Paul speaks of the same thing in his Epistle and letter to the Church and the faithful in Rome in our second reading today, as he reminded the faithful there to remember their obligations and missions as Christians, and not to be lax or complacent in how they live their lives. They were reminded to uphold their faith in God most faithfully, and to do their best to live righteously as Christian believers, behaving and doing things in the manner that they had been shown and taught to do by the Lord and through His Church.
After hearing from the Scripture passages today, we are all reminded that on this First Sunday of Advent, we focus one of the aspects of Advent in the anticipation of the coming of Our Lord and Saviour, that is Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. This Sunday therefore we are focusing on the Theme of Hope, the Hope that we have in Christ, our Lord, Whose birth we commemorate this coming Christmas season. Throughout the Scripture readings we heard this Sunday, we can clearly see this Hope being presented, as the Hope for the people of God Who were expecting the coming of God’s Saviour and liberation, just as He has proclaimed and promised to them, throughout time, again and again, from prophets to prophets, and messengers to messengers. It is this Hope that the people were holding onto firmly even as they suffered throughout all those years, humiliated and enduring hardships.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore at the very beginning of this season of Advent reflect carefully on our way of observing it and how we are preparing ourselves for the coming of the joyful season of Christmas. Let us ask by asking ourselves, what is it that we await for in Christmas? And what is it that we rejoice for in Christmas? We may not realise it but the ways that many of us and this world are using in preparing to celebrate and celebrating Christmas are not reflecting and showing what the true meaning of Christmas is all about. In whatever we see all around us these few weeks and in the next upcoming few weeks, what we see is all about excessive secularisation of Christmas, and all about glamour and merrymaking, but one that is lacking the true reason why we ought to rejoice in the first place.
We rejoice because of the Hope we have received and been reassured of by the Lord Himself, the Hope of salvation, eternal life and liberation from the chains and bondage of sin and death. Yet, in many of our celebrations, we place excessive emphasis on the many secular practices, customs and observances of Christmas, where the birthday Boy Himself was often sidelined, put aside and ignored, and instead we spent a lot of time and are spending a lot more time on the festivities, glamorous displays, of Santa Claus, Father Christmas, all the reindeers, glitters and snow, and all those things that should be merely accessory and accompanying the joy we have in the Hope in Christ we gained through Christmas. Yet, those things have often occupied the centre stage, and the Lord is often forgotten, ignored and laid aside on the festivities that bear His very own Name, Christmas.
Therefore, as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas appropriately and worthily, let us all reflect on what Christmas is truly all about, and think of how we can do better in making our Christmas celebration a truly genuine and worthy one, which reflects the true meaning, importance and significance of this event. Let us all focus on that great Hope we have seen in Christ, the Light of God and His salvation that has appeared in the midst of our darkened world filled with sin and evil. That way we will realise that whatever we plan for Christmas, if we have been following the customs and habits of the world, are really excessive and unnecessary. We have to remember that we celebrate Christmas because we are grateful, full of joy and happiness because of what our Lord and Saviour had done for us, in restoring Hope to each and every one of us.
Let us also keep in mind that there are those brothers and sisters of ours who cannot celebrate Christmas the way we often celebrate it. There are Christians all around the world who are still being persecuted, and who endure daily sufferings just because of their faith in God. There are places where Christians have to be very careful or lest they may be persecuted, or even lose their lives if they are found out to be believers of Christ. This was just like how it was during the early days of the Church, and how it was also during the many times throughout history when the Church and faithful Christians endured a lot of trials, challenges and many martyrdoms happened. But they all remained firm in their faith in God because of the Hope which they have seen in Christ, their Lord and Saviour.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all restore the true dignity and meaning of Christmas by restoring our focus on the true reason for Christmas, that is Christ Himself. Let us all focus our attention on Him and embody the true spirit and joy of Christmas in ourselves, in how we act and in how we prepare ourselves during this season of Advent. Let us all bear the Hope of Christ, His light and truth in our every words, actions and deeds, and be the beacons of His light and hope to the nations, especially to those who have been bereft and denied of hope and courage, of comfort and strength. But we can be their encouragement and strength, brothers and sisters, and if we can, through our actions and support, in whatever way we can do to bring the Light and Hope of Christ to our suffering brethren, then we truly have understood the true meaning and significance of Christmas, and are ready to celebrate it worthily.
May all of us progress through this season of Advent with the right spirit and motivation, and do our best to stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas in all of our preparations and expectations. Let us remind each other of the Light and Hope that we have received from Christ Himself, Our Lord and Saviour, and bear that Light and Hope in our own lives, that we may inspire many others to find their way to the Lord and to His salvation. May God bless us always and may He grant us the strength and the courage to do our best in glorifying Him ever always by our lives. Amen.