First Sunday of Advent
A friend of mine was telling me her experience at the stores on Black Friday. A mother was standing at the checkout line. Her two little children were giving her a harrowing time. My friend, who was also in line, decided to help her out. She pointed towards the security camera and said to the kids, “Santa is watching you from there!” The kids’ eyes grew big and they stopped dead! The mother had no further trouble with them.
When we hear a gospel reading like the one we read today, does that make us like frightened children. At one time or another, every generation has experienced events that makes them feel like it is the end of the world. Think about the Great Plague, the Great Wars, or 9/11. Yet, here we are. Today, I do not want to point at some cosmic camera and frighten us into submission. That was not the original intention of apocalyptic passages in the first place. Instead of debating the end times, I propose that we focus on the second reading. This reading gives us three ways to make our Advent meaningful. Here are my three points:
a) Abound in love for one another and for all (1Thes 3:12). I love the phrase, “Abound in love!” It says more than just “love one another” or “love your enemies.” It says that we should overflow with love. It says that there should an abundance of love. It further says, “increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” These days particularly, there is a temptation to love people only of our kind, only our country, or only our religion. At Christmas, Jesus did not come only for Israel. At Christmas, Christ embraced the world. This Advent, we too must do the same. Let us abound in love for one another and for all.
b) Be blameless in holiness before our God (1 Thes 3:13). If there is one thing we know about God, it is that God is holy. To strive to be holy before God who is all holy is quite a tall demand. In the Old Testament, holiness lay in fulfilling the laws and commandments. Jesus gave a totally new standard. There are two commandments, he said, by which we can fulfill every law – the total, uncompromised, radical love of God and total, uncompromised, radical love of our neighbor. If this Advent we do not love God a little more radically, and if we do embrace the radical love of neighbor, then, I think we have wasted another Advent. The only way to be blameless before our God is radical love.
c) Conduct yourselves to please God (1 Thes 4:1). Once again, to conduct ourselves in a way that we please God is a tall order. Sometimes, never mind God, it is hard for me to please my own expectations. How can we conduct ourselves to please God? The answer is Jesus. Jesus’ life is a model for us. In all things we need to ask ourselves only three questions. How would Jesus THINK? How would Jesus TALK? How would Jesus ACT? If we think, talk, and act like Jesus all of Advent, something miraculous will happen - this Christmas. We will not just be celebrating the birth of Jesus, but rather, Jesus will be born anew through us. It will truly be Christmas.
- Fr. Satish Joseph