First Sunday of Advent
Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
November 28, 2021
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
The Advent Season opens a new liturgical year.
This is a season of joyful expectation as we prepare to celebrate the sacred mystery of The Incarnation…God’s Eternal Word taking Flesh to walk among us in time…the Birth of Jesus Christ.
It’s important to remember that even as we look to the past events that occurred in Bethlehem, we await, as well, Christ’s triumphant return in glory.
No matter what it might be that we are expecting, and regardless of how patient…or impatient…we may be, it is not at all unusual to watch for signs that what we anticipate is about to arrive.
The waiting process typically includes an attentive eye to telling signs.
We open this new liturgical Season with The Lord Himself speaking of signs. The second part of this passage from Luke, however, might be better thought of as symptoms.
Jesus sets out a list of symptoms of poor spiritual health.
On November 1, All Saint’s Day, I saw such a sign…at least something I read as a sign of poor spiritual health.
I happened to be walking through a “big box store.” Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of something BLACK.
Throughout the prior weeks, that sales area had been committed to an extraordinarily large display of Halloween decorations. I assumed that the shelf filled with BLACK was unsold merchandise that would be marked down for quick sale.
I was wrong.
Overnight, the entire area had been transformed into a Christmas store. I walked through aisles filled with all sorts of festive…secular…decorations. None, in any way, shape, or form, spoke to just exactly what it is we are celebrating…the Birth of Jesus Christ.
I found that a little sad.
What I found to be shocking, however, was the shelf that displayed the BLACK merchandise that I mistook for Halloween decorations. In fact, in place of spooky black things, there was an aisle long row of small BLACK Christmas trees.
That’s right…BLACK CHRISTMAS TREES.
As I walked away, I couldn’t help but think that this was a sign of how close we are to completely losing the true meaning of Christmas.
At least to me, a BLACK CHRISTMAS TREE is a telling and worrisome symptom of very poor spiritual health.
We Christians live in the world. We cannot help but be drawn into the secular way of celebrating Christmas…or for that matter…living our lives.
But in all things, we are also called to live above the world. So somehow, we need to build immunity against those spiritual diseases that show themselves in things such as BLACK CHRISTMAS TREES.
I would suggest that the perfect place to begin some spiritual rehabilitation is at the Advent wreath.
For us, this is much, much more than a seasonal decoration. The Advent wreath is a circle symbolizing that God is eternal.
There are no black Advent wreaths. The wreath is made of evergreen branches that speak to everlasting life.
The light grows with each passing week as we mark the four weeks by lighting a new candle. This is a symbolic way of reminding us that The Light of Christ dispels all darkness.
The purple candles and ribbons are ways of preparing for a visit from royalty…Christ the King. The single rose or pink candle expresses the joy that we can barely contain while we wait.
Advent is not a penitential Season like Lent. Still, it is a season of preparation.
The best way to prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ is to turn away from BLACK CHRISTMAS TREES…and to stay close to the Advent wreath.
The best way to prepare for Christ’s return in glory is to become living Advent wreaths…staying within the circle of joy, peace…and life…of our Church.
The only way to push back against the invasive forest of BLACK TREES…is to walk in the Light of Christ.
The appropriate way to welcome The Reign of God is to decorate our lives with faith, hope, and love.
Through our baptisms, we have become living signs of the truth that, through Jesus, our Savior had been born. Good and faithful disciples are images of The Child born in Bethlehem….and The Christ, Whose return we wait for.