The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness."
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
[Jesus said to his disciples]: "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
"Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."
There is an urgency in both the second reading and the gospel for today, the first Sunday of Advent. They invite us to a spiritual tune-up at the start of our new liturgical year.
Conversion: Paul uses the vivid imagery of throwing off the bed-clothes and getting dressed to start the new day . There is maybe some hint of the struggle some people experience in getting up in the morning — a symbol for conversion. The day to prepare for is the new day of Christ's coming in judgment. The real question to be faced is "Can we face Christ?" "Have we really cast off the deeds of darkness/self-interest, in favour of living in the light of the gospel?" The gospel faces us with this question about how alert we are to our real selves. We are supposed to belong to Christ; have we really lived as if that were true? Part of the struggle of taking on a new day is the struggle to hope that it may be better than the failures of the day before. The process of conversion, turning from the darkness to the light, is only made possible by the gift of the light itself. It is the rising of the sun that calls us to get up. It was the coming of Christ into the world as its light that makes true conversion possible.
Renewal: Advent invites us to reflect upon time, the relationship between past, present and future. The saving events of Christ's life, death and resurrection, have to be made present in life as well as liturgy. It is in the changing circumstances of life that the mystery of salvation will unfold. In this new year we hope to be renewed, both individually and as community; and more fully respond to Christ's presence among us. Let us not give our young people the impression that our church is a relic of the past, isolated from the dynamics of history.
New Dawn: Our Scriptures offer us a bright vision of a new world. It is the vision of a world fully at peace, and a challenge to walk in the light of the Lord. The task of building this towards this ideal world is given to all people but especially to Christians who follow the ultimate peace-maker, Jesus. The challenge for today is how to transform the instruments of war (nuclear fission; digital technology etc) into instruments of a world at peace.
The new liturgical year invites us to be better peace-makers in the future. If we more fully mirror the spirit of Christ, our young people will see new value in the faith, and our worship will be turned not merely towards the past but towards a living presence and a real future.
Advent reminds us of the three comings of the Lord — his coming in history over 2000 years ago; his coming in glory at the end of time when God's dream for human kind will be realised; his invisible presence amid the happenings of our daily life.
If we can learn in these weeks of Advent the importance of patient waiting we have learned one of the greatest lesson in life. Patience is hard to practice in our hectic world. We live in an instant age — instant food, instant gratfication. We even speed up nature: with artificial light we fool the hens to lay two eggs a day! We are in too much of a hurry in having every possible experience too early in life — the morning-after pill for eleven year olds!
The most important things in life cannot be rushed and require patient waiting. Patient waiting is required from the mother to bring the child to birth, and then from babyhood to adulthood; the teacher requires it with the slow learner; the politician requires it not to give up on the peace process, and everybody requires it to build loving relationships. We wait not mournfully, but in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Today we begin our preparation for celebrating the birth of Christ, our Saviour, at Christmas. Our Scripture readings urge us to make ourselves ready, to be on the alert, to turn aside from disctractions and give more time to God in our lives."Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord," says Isaiah . We must not live lives of darkness and of sin, says St Paul, but "put on the armour of grace," and walk in the light, guided by the Holy Spirit."Be vigilant, stay awake," says the gospel, for we do not know at what moment our life may end, as unexpectedly as the people who were drowned by the Flood, in the time of Noah.
Outwardly, all may be normal, with men and women busy at thair daily occupations... but inwardly they have responded differently to the gift of life. They are in varying states of preparedness for the day of judgment, so that while some will be taken into God's kingdom, others will be left outside. On our journey through life we are always faced with a choice between two ways, either that of selfishness and sin, or, on the other hand, that of grace, which is letting conscience be our guide in all that we do.
It is when we sincerely try to live as God wants that we experience real freedom. Jesus said to the Jews (Jn 8:32), "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." The disciple of Christ often asks the question, "What am I doing to serve God and my neighbour? Such faithful discipleship brings its own rewards, an inner peace and freedom from fear about death and the uncertainty of life thereafter. Our Scripture says that "in love there can be no fear," and " perfect love casts out fear." (1 Jn 4:18)
Advent is a time for listening."Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, so that he may teach us his ways, and that we may walk in his paths." The second reading is the one that finally brought St Augustine to conversion, when he opened the New Testament at random at that very passage, and please God it will help us to look into our own lives and, if needs be, change them too, for the better.