1st Sunday of Advent – B • November 29, 2020 at St. Luke’s

I recently saw a movie called Parasite – actually it must have been more like a year ago, before Covid. It is intriguing but not exactly a feel-good movie. Very briefly, the movie is about a poor family – a father, mother, and their adult son and daughter – who trick a wealthy family into hiring each one of them to work for them in their fancy modern house. The rich family have no idea that the four people now working for them are related and are not who they say they are. One time the rich family go away for the weekend to their “second home” somewhere outside the city. What do the poor family do? They treat the mansion like their own home, lounge around, celebrate, and make a huge mess. The house ends up fairly trashed and then suddenly the phone rings – the rich family decided to come back early and are only 30 minutes away. A desperate scramble ensues to try to clean everything up before they return. If they don’t succeed in restoring everything to its previous condition, their cover will be blown and the poor family will be exposed as frauds.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, when we begin to look with expectation to the celebration of the Incarnation – God become man, which we celebrate on Christmas Day. (Although we also celebrate it on the feast of the Annunciation – March 25 – when Mary conceived Jesus in her womb.) Our readings all have this theme of waiting, of expectation, for the coming of the Lord. In our Gospel reading, Jesus urges us to be watchful, waiting for His return.
God created this world and everything in it, and then entrusted it to us. But then temptation and sin entered into the world, and the order and the harmony that God had given the world suddenly became distorted. And we continue to live with the confusion and the consequences of the sins that have disfigured God’s creation. In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah laments the evil that has embedded itself in the world and begs the Lord to return to set things right. So, in His infinite goodness, God sent His only Son into the world, not to condemn it, but to redeem it, to destroy the sin that had entered into it, and to restore order and harmony to us. That of course is all part of what we celebrate on Christmas and what we prepare ourselves spiritually to celebrate throughout the Advent season.
But Jesus’ action of redemption which began with his birth here on earth and culminated in his death and resurrection have not yet been fulfilled. We all recognize that fact, that sin and evil are still present in the world. Like Isaiah, no doubt we have times when we lament the state of the world, the injustice and insanity that often seem to dominate, and we ask God to come and set things right. Of course, that also means that we have to be willing to let the Lord come and set things right within our own souls, which are likewise affected by sin. There’s work that needs to be done in our own hearts as well.
So Advent is more than just a time of preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ 1st coming into the world, but also a time of preparation for the 2nd, when Jesus will return in glory. It is his second coming that Jesus tells us in our Gospel reading to be watchful for. He urges us to use this time that we have been given to prepare ourselves for His return. And as he says, “You do not know when the lord of the house is coming.” If we knew the day and the hour, how many of us would act like the poor family in Parasite, partying up until just before the Lord’s return and then scrambling to set things in order. And God knows that what is best for us – what is for our own true happiness – is being in right relationship with Him. He knows that living life without being in right relationship with Him will not bring us true happiness, and no doubt that is why it is not for us to know when He will return.
So instead he urges to be watchful and to prepare ourselves for His return. We have heard this theme over and over in our readings in the weeks leading up to Advent. He will return and will then bring to fulfillment the redemption of the world that he began when he first entered into the world.
But it is not correct to think that God has abandoned us until his second coming. (Sometimes it might be tempting to think that, especially when we experience tragedy and suffering in this life.) But the reality is that God is still with us, even now. Before he ascended into heaven almost 2000 years ago, he said to his disciples, “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) While we await his return in glory at the last judgment, we can have the confidence that he is still with us, albeit in more hidden ways. And the best way to prepare ourselves for his return is by acknowledging his presence in our lives, even when we don’t feel it, and by staying close to Him in prayer. If we have a regular prayer life, we can trust that God will work in us.
Let us not waste this precious time that God has given us. Let’s recognize each day as a gift that God has given us to be used to prepare ourselves for his return.