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This Sunday, already a new liturgical year, begins the season of Advent. In this period of four weeks of watchful waiting we joyfully look forward to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. But what kind of coming are we talking about?
How patient are you in your watchful waiting
- Isaiah 2: 1-5
- Romains 13: 11-14
- Matthew 24: 37-44
Watchful waiting, for end times and for Christmas
When we talk of Advent what comes to mind is Christmas. It’s no surprise then that as we begin this season towns in different places are already dressed in Christmas “attire” and Christmas markets are in operation. We need to be careful not to allow ourselves be hijacked by commercial attitude that short-circuits advent and Christmas. The church accords us this time of waiting which, if lived fully, will help us appreciate better the profound meaning of the mystery of Christmas. It’s important then that through Advent we progress step by step towards the great day of the Lord’s coming.
Strange, but readings make no allusion to Christmas!
Indeed, if the readings mention nothing about the birth of Jesus; so then, to what kind of watchful waiting are we invited? The season of Advent draws our attention to the need to watch and prepare for the coming of the Lord, but with two poles of emphasis.
The first part of Advent has an overtone of the Second Coming of Christ with a language of the end of time. And the second part, with the approach of Christmas, the focus is on the incarnation. Both parts, nevertheless, are traversed by the same message of watchful waiting. What are the signs of our preparation?
External preparations are important but not enough
For some people, the menu for Christmas is already fixed. And that day will completely be new look from toes to the head. Besides, homes are already flashing with special decorations. By all means we shouldn’t hesitate to mark Christmas as a special event. However, we don’t end at external decorations. That’s why the word of God draws our attention to the inner look that also needs our retouch.
Watchful waiting; communal, familial and personal
Christian communities in different places, in response to their reality, are organising multiple ways of living this season in a more interior and deep way. You have charity initiatives or special moments of prayer organised. That can be done also on the family and individual level. Here the prophet Isaiah can be a source of inspiration to us.
In the First Reading, he speaks of the promise of the time of peace. We are at the epoch of trouble, 8th century before Jesus Christ. Firstly, it’s the Northern Kingdom that will fall into the hands of enemies and later the Kingdom of Judah. Before the ravages of war, people dream about nothing but time of peace. And Isaiah expresses this yearning through powerful symbols: “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
But fatal weapons are still everywhere!
Then, will this promise ever be fulfilled or isn’t it just a mere wishful thinking? Indeed, as we read this promise they are persons who are working day and night, even on Sundays, acting against this promise. They are perfecting weapons for killing human beings. We may be disappointed by such state of affair, however, it’s not a reason to despair. The fulfilment of the promise announced is very much in the hands of each individual person and not the states as such. How?
Destroy your own depot of ammunitions
The troubles we see in the world do not begin with the missiles in military base of some country but rather with personal, domestic ammunitions that each person has. It’s there we should start transforming them into instruments of life. The ways are many.
Wouldn’t it be possible to change my manner of speaking that ever leaves others feeling wounded and insulted? I need to be more respectful towards them.
What about that look that I cast on someone that leaves them feeling you are nonentity? Can’t I make an effort to look at them more humanly, with love and respect?
What about those gestures I deliberately do just to irritate others? Wouldn’t this Advent be an opportune period to transform them into gestures of friendship and peace?
In short, such missiles in my stock, often pointed at others, are the source of wars in my neighbourhood. They are the ones I should care to transform if I want a more human and peaceful world. It means the transformation has got to begin with me.
But this change will not come today or tomorrow. We need to be patient with ourselves and with others too. Indeed, this watchful waiting calls for being patient. Unfortunately, patience is one our most serious challenges today.
Am I capable of waiting with patience?
We are in the rush world which is providing us with all the facilities that accelerate our losing of the capacity to wait with patience.
As we don’t want to waste time preparing a meal in the kitchen, we have packed meal from the supermarket. And because we have no time to waste, sitting down with friends and enjoy the meal; the bite is packed in such a way that we can eat while hurrying through the street.
And with digital gadgets, our will is done just at the press of the button. But when I press the button two times, three times and I have no response –that is just unbearable. That’s how gadgets find themselves flying through the window or hit against the wall.
Advent appeals to us to activate the capacity to wait. It includes living this season fully without rushing into Christmas prematurely. This season comes to test our quality of waiting; waiting in joy and hope. Yes, we need patience because the promise of the peaceful world will not be fulfilled at the press of a button. It’s rather through a gradual transformation of our own attitudes and behaviour. There’s no short cut. It’s something we can only accomplish, with God’s grace, and through patience and mutual support of one another.
Let’s walk in the light of the Lord
I want to leave you with the last words of the 1st Reading that I find inspiring: “O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” But what does it mean to be in light? Here’s the story:
A master asks his disciples, how can you tell when the night is over and the day is on? One disciple replies, ‘when you see an animal in the distance and you can tell if it is a sheep or a goat.’ Another one says: ‘When you can see a tree in the distance and you can tell what type fruit tree it is.’ But neither response pleases the master. Then, he says:
‘You know you are in light, and no longer in darkness when you can look at the face of any human being and see there the face your brother or sister. If you cannot do this, then no matter what time it is – you are still in the dark’ (I don’t know the author).
Am I in the light or in the dark?
Indeed, Lord, you invite me to wake from sleep of my old self, casting aside the darkness of hatred and disrespect for others. May this Advent, with the help of your grace, be an occasion of turning a new page in my life. Yes, Lord, find me in watchful waiting when you come back.
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