Look around today. It’s Advent isn’t it. Purple decorations. Dusted the wreath off. Familiar hymns. Salvation Army bell ringers at the store. Counting the days to Christmas. Black Friday shopping. Here we go again.
The First Sunday of Advent. It’s one big do-over! But even though it might seem monotonous and routine, perhaps that’s the message of the Gospel this weekend; we need a do-over to shock us back into sync spiritually!
What is Advent all about? Well, it’s about anticipation, promise and prayer. I grew up in Louisiana of course, and even though this is silly, right after Thanksgiving, every morning I would open my curtain and peer out looking for one thing – snow! I was always anticipating and expecting it. And if I didn’t get it one year, you better believe I did it over the next. Prayed harder and waited longer. This is the stuff of our readings today. Jeremiah and Paul’s hopes were high and electric.
But they were also full of apprehension as well. They lived in ages of turmoil and threat. Jeremiah was familiar with cold exile and utter loss. Paul wrote to a community besieged by apocalyptic change. There was much to fear too while anticipating. I remember Christmas shopping once in an enormous department store. A mom was there with her four year old. The four year old was interested in the fur coats and how they felt. And before you know it, mom was too busy looking at the bargains on the other side of the world – a clothing table away. When the girl looked around, her mom was gone. Her face became red and she started sobbing and crying. Out of nowhere, mom swooped in to cradle the girl and transform her shrieks into tears of relief and joy.
I know the temptation is there to say, “Why are we doing this all over again? When I taught religion in high school, I would introduce a topic and automatically some student would complain “We did that in Grade School!” The implication was, of course, that they thought they knew all there was to know about the topic. We might be tempted to think the same things as we begin to retell the story of the Gospel. Been there; done that; we heard it all last year. But we’re not the same persons, are we? Perhaps that’s why we need the do-over. We’ve grown older; we’ve had new experiences and made new friends. We see things differently this year than last year. The Gospel doesn’t change for sure; but we do!
Life doesn’t get any better. It’s still the same. The world struggles on. Suffering continues. But God has promised redemption. Do you believe that? If you don’t, that’s probably why Advent is good for you – to perfect your art of the do-over!