As the earth turned again one more time on its axis last night, and the shadows began to fall, night slowly crept over each part of our planet. Our sacred text, our sacred word, is not only written in the Bible, but the finger of God has traced his word across all of the earth, the galaxy, the universe, the whole of the created order, for God continues to write his love song. The ground, foundation, and source of creation and our very being is the outpouring of the Trinitarian Love expressed between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
As the sun appeared to us to set, and night gently made its way across our minuscule earth in this part of the Milky Way last night, the vigil began and so also the beginning of the new liturgical year and the season of Advent. We heard or will hear again today the words of Jesus to his disciples in today’s Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent: “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk 21:36).
Traditionally, the readings of the first two weeks of Advent focus on our watching for the second coming of Jesus. We are to watch and pray, two words that may challenge many of us who instead are too busy and in a tense posture ready to react. But as the daily cycle of day to night and night to day repeats itself, so are we called to enter into a daily rhythm of watching and praying so that we can be more aware and more alert for the signs of his coming, like a watchman standing guard over the city.
During Advent, we also prepare in the final two weeks to remember again the first humble coming of Jesus, the Incarnation, in which the infinite Son of God took on flesh at his miraculous conception in the womb of Mary and became man. Fully God and fully man, Jesus experienced our human condition in the most vulnerable of settings. We are a people of memory, though we often forget, that is why we hear the story again of the simple birth of our savior, who many rejected even then, saying there was no room for him in the inn.
The third way we prepare for the coming of Jesus during Advent is in our everyday experiences. We who have much in the way of material comfort need to remember, how God heard the cry of the poor and saved his people by sending Moses to free them from their bondage in Egypt, he sent them judges and kings to guide them, and he sent his Son to free us from our bondage to the sin of our pride, seeking of fame and celebrity, greed, lust, sloth or acedia, gluttony, despair, and wrath.
May we remember this Advent who we are, whose we are, and who we are called to be: Pope Francis teaches that the Church of Jesus Christ, “is the people of God, and the people of God welcome, love, forgive, and encourage others by how they live” (McCann, 5). As we prepare for Jesus’ second coming and to remember his birth, may we also remember to watch for him in our encounters with those we meet each day, and to spend time in the rhythm of his creation.
We have been created by Love to love. As gently as the night gave way to the morning rays of the sun this morning, may we live and move more gently upon this earth. May our thoughts, actions, and words be filled to overflowing with kindness, compassion, understanding, thanksgiving, and mercy toward those we encounter. May we remember the forgotten, the invisible, the lonely, and dehumanized, may we see Jesus as St. Mother Teresa saw him in the distressing disguise of the poor: the materially poor as well as the spiritually poor, the one hundred percent, who require a savior this Christmas.
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McCann, Deborah. 30 Days of Reflections and Prayers: What Pope Francis Says About Mercy. New London, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 2015.