Advent 1

Well, somehow it’s Advent. It seems like I sneezed in August and all of a sudden we’re staring down Christmas. And so as I recovered from two Thanksgiving dinners and looked over the readings for the next few weeks, it occurred to me that Advent is easily the most Metal season of the Church. If the members of Metallica and Guns N’ Roses were ardent Anglicans, Advent would be their favorite season. Darkness is the major theme of Advent – the word darkness is in the first line of today’s Collect – and just listen to that Gospel reading: a worldwide flood, thieves in the night, the end of the world. Just the kind of stuff you were looking for to help you set the mood for hanging Christmas lights.

 

Darkness is not just a metaphor, of course, but a reality; it takes time to get used to the days getting shorter, to the cold, to the shift in our physical rhythms.  It can make it hard for us to mark time, and so the Church gave us Advent as the beginning of our new liturgical year.

 

Now, “If we were still using the dating system made popular by Hippolytus of Rome, we would be writing the year 7498 AM (Anno Mundi) as the date for our correspondence.  As it happens, we still use the system devised by the sixth-century monk Dionysius Exiguus (“Tiny Dennis”), who advised that it would be more apt for Christian Europe to place the incarnation at the center of history and to date events prior to Christ by counting backward, leaving the normal forward count for the events after that first Advent.  It took the promotion of another monk, Venerable Bede, a century and a half later, to popularize that dating system.  And we have been living with the BC/AD system ever since.”[1]

 

Jesus didn’t seem that concerned with time, outside of knowing when it was time for Him to head to Jerusalem for His sacrifice, but His followers were totally preoccupied with time. When will Israel shrug off Roman rule? When will you finally take over? When will the world end? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? It must have driven Jesus crazy. They had in front of them the Son of the Living God, and instead of just enjoying that fact for a few minutes, it had to be a three-year press conference.

 

And so Jesus brought out His inner metalhead. “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away.” I’m sure someone in the ’70s thought that was from a Led Zeppelin song rather than a quote from Jesus.

 

There will be a day, Jesus is telling us, when the clocks will stop ticking and the need for calendars will cease, but that day is most likely not today, and probably not tomorrow either, but hey, you never know.

 

So be ready, Jesus tells us. Not anxious, not worried, not frozen in place lest we miss it, but ready. Don’t miss the obvious signs: don’t be like the people who laughed at the godly guy building an ark. Don’t be the person who leaves his doors unlocked during a rash of robberies. Be ready.

 

So what does it look like to make ready for Christ? Well, that’s the entire theme of Advent, casting off the works of darkness and putting on the armor of light. Here’s a couple practical ways to make ready

 

First, make sure you and Jesus are on the same page, so to speak. How is your relationship with Jesus? What is your relationship with Jesus? If you’re not sure, Advent’s a good time to check in.

 

Next, forgive and ask forgiveness. Make right your relationships with others. See Christ in others and let others see Christ in you.

 

Next, read some Scripture. If an important guest was coming to your house for dinner, you might inquire beforehand where she is from or if she favors a certain type of food – you’d try to know a little of her story before she arrived. Learn Jesus’ story before He arrives.

 

Finally, know what time it is and act like it.  Keep watch, for Jesus is not only one day coming back altogether, but He also comes to each one of us every day.  He comes to us in our neighbor and in the stranger, in His Body and Blood, in His Spirit that dwells within us.  When we watch for Jesus, when we are ready for Him, He knows that He can use us to show His love and light in a world that is much too dark.  Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

 

[1] Dennis Hamm, SJ: http://liturgy.slu.edu/1AdvA112716/theword_hamm.html

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