Reflections on the Readings
First Sunday of Advent - December 2, 2012 - Year C
The Year of Faith
Your Redemption is Near
"Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." - Jesus
Zig Ziglar, the premier motivational speaker and teacher of the last fifty years, passed away Wednesday, November 27th. He was 86. I went to his website and came across this quote he posted from his mobile phone on November 24, 2012:
"F - E - A- R: Has two meanings:
1. Forget Everything And Run
2. Face Everything And Rise
The Choice is Yours!"
These are profound and inspiring words given Mr. Ziglar was four days from his passing from this life into the love of God. It's as if he was taking a final look at his life and its remaining hours and remembered he had nothing to fear. That's a faith to pray to have anytime and especially at the hour of our death.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus is not talking about the sky falling. The 'signs' in the sun and moon and stars, the powers of the heavens shaking, is God's response to those who live in defiance of his law. Specifically, Jesus is talking about Jerusalem and its hallowed temple and the shallow reception he received from both. He came to his own and his own received him not. More broadly his words speak of God's judgement in any generation who resist his overtures of mercy and grace. While this will cause great fear and foreboding for some, it is not the end of the world for those who love him and rejoice in his coming. The encouragement of Jesus is that whenever these 'signs' occur we can look up or as Zig said, "Face Everything And Rise!"
In the season of Advent we sense the nearness of Christ and his saving love. We take these few weeks before Christmas to meditate upon the meaning of Christ in us and among us. This is a time to cultivate an earnest expectation for Christ and his kingdom. Extended shopping hours and more sales and Christmas 'bargains' wear us out. Many are pooped by the time the real celebration of Christmas arrives on December 25. The Church in its wisdom gives us this season of hopeful waiting to reflect on how much room we are willing to make for Christ in our lives and all of our living.
Our lives become too cluttered. We close in on ourselves with our stuff and things and shut out God and others and live unaware of the beauty of the earth and friendship and brotherhood. We live too much of our time thinking that earth is our home. But earth is not our destination and time is not our own. There's a word in the Christian vocabulary that addresses these concerns. It is the word sanctify. It means to see ourselves as special witnesses of Christ. It means keeping Sunday set apart as a day of worship and rest. Sunday begins the week. Advent precedes Christmas and prepares us to celebrate the coming of Christ. Time measured this way becomes a gift of God to us. God calls us to be more than squanderers and consumers. God asks us to believe that his eye is on the sparrow and that he knows the number of hairs on our head and that we are salt and light to the world and that he can do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. This is why Jesus says, "But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare..."
In the second reading we hear the exhortation to increase and abound in love toward all. This is an invitation to openness. To be open to God's love and to be open toward all in whom God's image is found. We are also called to perfection. In our hearts God's holiness prepares us to live with a healthy understanding of the last days, and worthy of the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints, and of eternity.
The first reading opens up with a promise. Jeremiah the prophet sees the future filled with justice and righteousness. That new time comes from a Branch springing forth from the house of David. The Branch is reminiscent of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. From this Branch we may eat and be filled with the righteousness which comes from faith in Christ for the Branch is Christ. Even in Jeremiah's day the nearness of redemption was felt and believed. Isn't our redemption nearer than when we first believed?
I have listened to more than one scary sermon on the 'end of time.' It was tempting after hearing one of those hell fire and brimstone sermons to Fear Everything And Run! However, today's readings as well as most of the Advent Sunday readings are about finding our way. We have an invitation to explore how we will more fully embrace the coming of Christ, now, tomorrow, and when it blossoms in its fulness in God's own time. There's nothing scary about that. Nothing is meant to be scary about that. Living with our hearts turned toward our eternal home we can in the interim Face Everything And Rise!
But as the insightful Zig Ziglar said: The Choice Is Yours!
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com