1st Sunday of Advent C
There is an interesting contrast presented in the Gospels. There are strange signs in the sun, the moon and the stars which sends the whole earth into dismay. It is so great that people will literally, “die of fright.” And I get that. Imagine the commotion and the confusion that ensues when the sun, moon, stars and seas start getting funky. Yet, Jesus says that his believers must act in a different way. “But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” Indeed, raising our heads will allow us to see the Son of Man coming in glory. How great is the difference between those who fear and those who meet their trials head on for they witness the coming of the Lord.
In the midst of the same set of circumstances, people stand in two different worlds. The world of fear has its own culture, politics and language. Its focus is on safety and security and the more security is sought, it seems inevitable that more is needed. The quest for safety ironically drives us to greater insecurity. And fear’s focus becomes ever more insular, ever more isolated and ever more self-involved. It is as if our perspective diminishes altogether and our posture grows smaller and smaller until we can no longer see our communities, our neighbors, our friends and or anyone outside our immediate circle of care. We are rolled into a tiny ball, cowering, consumed by fear and seeing all as a threat.
But for those who stand erect and raise their heads, they are aware of the glory that has come upon them. They are redeemed and saved and no longer live for just themselves, but for the other. They seek to share the redemption won by Christ and free the prisoner from every oppression, even that of love’s great enemy, fear. Each of us have had our feet planted in either or more likely both of these worlds. But we cannot equate the two for if Advent means anything, it means that fear has been swallowed up by glory; that feat has been conquered by love.
Which world shall we live in? Look at the Syrian refugee crisis. I understand that people are fearful of terrorists coming to our shores. After all the point of terrorism is not the damage it causes but the fear it can spread. Yet, I think of our refugee family we adopted from Iraq who actually came from Syria. I and they could not imagine what their life would be like if we were not there for them and made them one of our own. More importantly, I do not know who would be as Christians if we had said no.
It is the same with what the Gospel calls the daily anxieties of life- the deadline at work, the big test or college application, the ups and downs of relationship. What a shame it would be if we surrendered what is best in ourselves, our connectedness, community and love in order to be a slave of the calendar, the planner and the mundane, peace shattering, hope diminishing and people denying hum-drum of everyday life.
Advent poses a challenge. As we have heard, we are preparing to receive the Lord when he comes again. We are obviously also preparing to welcome the incarnation at Christmas when the always existing word of God took flesh among us. And we are told to partake in that glory right now by inviting Christ into our lives and fill ourselves with faith and glory. But the challenge that connects all three is always the same. Do we look and act like a people redeemed by Jesus Christ? If we dare to say yes to the promise and not to fear, we are promised God’s greatest gifts. But we must say yes.
So we must live as people of hope, but why wouldn’t we want to? We will choose the promise of a new day dawning than to live with dreary despair. We must live as a people of peace, by why wouldn’t we? We shall encounter the other believing that what we can create and dream together outweighs whatever threat other may deem them to be. We must choose love, but why wouldn’t we? How horrible it would be if we forsook the most divine thing about us to dwell in the regions of fear. No, we shall be the people who stand tall, head raised and bask in the glory of God. We shall yes to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.