1st Sunday of Advent Year B

     Christmas seems to have come early this year. It wasn’t even Advent and the Christmas music was on and Christmas parties were in full swing. For a season that is supposed to be about peace and joy, Christmas always seems to be the craziest time of year again. Every year we seem to be running from one place to another, getting our Christmas shopping done, meeting with old friends and making new ones. It is certainly understandable that we have many things going on over the next few weeks leading up to Christmas which demand our attention, but amidst all the hustle and bustle, we hear our Lord warn us in today’s gospel to be watchful and prepare for His coming. Just think for a moment about all the preparations you are making for Christmas. Is the meaning of the season being lost in all that? Think about all the gifts you are buying, all the energy you are expending on decorating your house, and all those other things you want to do to prepare for Christmas. Amidst all the holiday cheer how are you finding time to keep your attention on the coming of Christ?

     Have you ever stopped to think that you could miss Christmas this year? Certainly, we will find ourselves at Mass and opening gifts, but if we are not careful we can totally miss the true meaning of Christmas. It can be so easy for us to become like those living in the village of Bethlehem at the first Christmas. They were so busy and content, that when Jesus knocked at the door of the inn to be born they were kept their doors and hearts locked to Christ. Sadly, for those in the village Christmas came and went without them ever realizing it, but for the shepherds who were keeping watch they had the life changing encounter with the Christ child in the manger. So, this Christmas will you be like the villagers in Bethlehem too busy to recognize Christ when He comes, or will you be like the shepherds and have a life changing experience this Christmas?  

     If we don’t want to miss Christmas this year we have to start preparing now, after all this is why the Church gives us this season of Advent. The word Advent literally translates to mean “coming toward” This Advent our Lord wants to come toward us, but as He moves closer to us we must be sure we are prepared to receive Him. My friends there is no standing still in our spiritual lives. Either we are moving closer to Him or we are falling farther behind Him. So, what about you? Are you moving closer or farther from our Lord?

     If you are anything like me, we can find ourselves feeling like we are trying to move forward, but are going know where. But I have come to learn that even if I don’t feel like I’m moving forward, if I’m not going backward I am making progress. This became very clear to me in my sophomore year of High School. While swimming I seriously injured my calf. I came off the wall felt a tight pull, my ankle sagged down and I couldn’t put any weight on it. After a month on crutches my doctors wanted me to start rehab but still didn’t want me putting weight on the leg, so they prescribed aqua therapy. I’m not sure if you have seen one of these pools but basically, it’s a big bathtub with giant jets. I’ll admit it’s one of the most depressing exercises because while you swim the jets push you back, thus no matter how hard you try, you never make any physical progress. My first session I was so excited to get back to exercise I was swimming hard, only to make a mess as I threw water out of the pool. After a while though as I settled down and found my stroke again, I found myself peacefully moving through the water.

     My friends our spiritual life is allot like that pool. Just as if I would have stopped swimming hard I would have been pushed to the back wall of the pool, so too if we stop moving forward in our spiritual lives we will fall back. Likewise, even though I didn’t feel like I was making any physical progress swimming in place after a few sessions I could tell my strength was coming back. Friends what about you, are you going to use this Advent to find your stroke again and move forward or are you going to come in on Christmas for Mass and try to swim frantically to find Christ at Christmas only to make a mess of things?

     You see this first Sunday of Advent is the beginning of a new liturgical year and a new year for our spiritual journey. Just as many of us make new year’s resolutions for the secular new year, shouldn’t we also make a spiritual new year’s resolution for the new spiritual year? Advent is that time for us to open our hearts to the grace of God allowing him to mold us into the best version of ourselves, the version of ourselves He created us to be. So, if we are going to keep watch we need to first look at ourselves and take a little inventory of where we are on our faith journey

     I think if we make an honest assessment of our lives we will see that very few of us have drastic changes to make, but all of us need to make some small changes in our spiritual life. Whether you need to make drastic or small changes now is the time. Wherever you find room for improvement in your spiritual life now is the time to work to improve it.

     The Church gives us this season of Advent to prepare ourselves, so we don’t miss Christmas. Let us not waste this opportunity to grow this Advent as we wait for the Lord to come into our hearts at Christmas and in Glory at the end of time. Now is the time to make one small step towards a deeper relationship with Him. What resolution will you make? What do you have to do to find your stroke so that when Christ comes at Christmas we will be like the shepherds ready to welcome him and not like the citizens of Bethlehem who missed Him.

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