First Sunday of Advent
December 3, 2017
The past two years, I’ve been driving a vehicle that has a special safety feature. The car came with sensors on the front and sides. Not that I ever did, but if I just happened to “tailgate” the car in front of me, a flashing red “collision alert” would appear on the dashboard, warning me to back off. And if I ventured out of my lane, which, of course, even the most conscientious drivers occasionally do, a cautionary signal appears on the side-view mirror, together with rather loud chimes. If one method of warning doesn’t reset wandering attention, the other certainly will.
When I first started driving the vehicle, I actually found these devices as annoying as my Dad…who was a world class backseat driver. But with time, I came to appreciate these watchful helpers. Obviously, no one can rely totally on this technology to get safely to their destination. Drivers still have the primary responsibility for getting home safely. But these warning signals certainly help. They are especially helpful at night. I recently changed to a vehicle without these bells and whistles, and I missed them. Once again, I was totally dependent on myself.
We begin Advent 2017 with a passage from Isaiah, who acknowledges the human inclination to wander from the path of righteousness. The First Reading brings to mind how easily we are distracted from what is good and holy.
It doesn’t take that much to distract even the best driver. Our minds wander, especially if we are worried about something. Our vision tends to stray from the road to a sign or a building. Don’t even get me started on the cell phone.
It’s the same sort of thing with our spiritual journey. There are countless distractions that draw our attention away from God. We travel through time in the darkness of sin and death. The neon lights of worldly things are constantly trying to draw our attention away from The Light of Christ. They don’t offer true light, only dangerous distractions. And once worldly…material things…grab our attention, they hold on with a death grip.
Which brings us to this first season of the liturgical year. Although technically, Advent is not a time for repentance, still, it is a four-week long opportunity to refocus on our journey. The key words in our First Reading are like the safety features in my old vehicle…they get our attention. And if we happen to ignore one of the warnings, another follows quickly behind.
Today we are reminded of the need to redirect our attention and make any course corrections that are necessary to ensure safe traveling. Just like the signals on the side mirrors of newer vehicles, our Gospel flashes words at us that are impossible to ignore…even with the multiple distractions of shopping, parties, decorating, assembling, wrapping, and baking. The Lord Himself cautions us to BE WATCHFUL! BE ALERT!
Thankfully, we are not totally dependent upon ourselves. We are equipped with all of the safety features a traveler needs to arrive home in the Kingdom of God. We are given the Gospel to guide us. We have the Holy Spirit to “backseat drive.” And of course, we have the Sacraments to help us get back on the right path when we wander. So, then, together, let’s travel around the Advent wreath, making four stops to light candles as we make our way around this symbol of eternal life. Our first stop is the candle that reminds us to BE WATCHFUL! BE ALERT! Because the Day of the Lord is at hand!