As we begin Advent, we begin a new year in the Church. New years are exciting because we have survived yet another year, and we eagerly look forward to the one that is to come. As with years past, we should expect both joy and sorrow, at times. We should expect to make some new friends, renew old friendships, and even lose some of those that we love. As we journey into the new year, however, we have but one request, we heard it in the Alleluia today, “Show us, Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation.” Isn’t that a beautiful prayer? It comes from Psalm 85 verse 5, “Show us, Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation.” I challenge you to join our family each morning as we start our day, and each evening as we retire, to say this prayer. Today is day one.
Advent, as you know, is not only preparation to celebrate the birth of our Lord, in a manger in Bethlehem, but is also our preparation for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ who will return to judge the living and the dead. The Incarnation was real–God visited his people to definitively reveal to the world his immense love for it, and all who live in it. As John 3:16 reads, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
The return of God is also real–Jesus ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, he will come again in Glory to judge the living and the dead and his Kingdom will have no end. As Matthew 25:31 reads, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them.” To one group he will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” To the other he will say, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Our Church bids us to prepare this Advent season. It really could be our last. Are we ready? Have we prepared? Many have prepared-well for Christmas: buying gifts, hanging stockings, getting the tree, but have we given any thought whatsoever to the condition of our soul? Of our family, and friends, and where we will spend all eternity? St. Bernard of Clairvaux said of Advent, “There are three distinct comings of the Lord: His coming to men, His coming into men, and His coming against men.”
I once knew a Baptist minister, who when leading a Bible study on the Book of Revelation, burst into tears at the thought of all those who were burning in the lake of fire–who did not know life, who failed to love, who maybe, did not outright reject God, but just never bothered to give him praise, or thanks, and the honor that is due His holy name.
I think St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians today gives us all a proper warning that is worth repeating, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness, and the anxieties of daily life, and that day,” meaning, of course, the day of judgement, “catch you by surprise like a trap. Be vigilant,” he says, “at all times and pray.” That’s good advice going into this holiday season, isn’t it? No carousing. No drunkenness. No anxiety. Be vigilant and pray for strength. Write that down! That’s good stuff! Meditate on that with me everyday.
And I leave you with the prayer of our Lord Jesus to his disciples in today’s Gospel, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.” That’s the most beautiful prayer for the year to come. Increase in holiness. Abound in love for all. Strengthen your heart. Be blameless in word and deed. In this simple way we’ll always be ready for the Advent of our Lord–whenever and wherever we are. Marana tha! Come Lord Jesus. Repeat after me, ““Show us your love, oh Lord and grant us your salvation.” Happy New year.