ADVENT 1 SERMON: CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY WITH WATCHFULNESS
Happy New year! Happy new year! Happy new liturgical year!
Last week Christ the King Sunday marked the end of the liturgical year in churches worldwide. It was the culmination of a journey that started in Advent 2021. We walked the liturgical path to Christmas, Transfiguration Sunday, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and a longer Ordinary time, completing the circle with Christ the King Sunday.
Looking back over the year, how meaningful was the liturgical journey for you? Was it just another year like all the others, just going through the motions and trying to get to the next season? Or could you experience glimpses of connection, depth, growth, and transformation, meeting God in the various seasons of life and liturgical seasons and discovering the richness of the abundance of gifts offered to us throughout the liturgical year?
Now, we stand on the brink of a new liturgical year! Entering the salvation drama again. Ahead of us lies a journey with gifts awaiting us all along the way. We have companions joining us on the journey, growing together. But most of all, our Divine Guide walks closer to us than anyone else. Even more intimate than we are to ourselves…
Advent is an invitation to enter the drama of salvation history anew, preparing for and participating in a new world order, a new life!
How can we make the most of the year ahead?
How can we prepare to receive the gifts awaiting us?
Which attitudes can we cultivate to receive the bounty offered to us every day on the journey?
That is what Advent is about! It is a nurturing process to be awake, expectant, and attentive to the invitations of God all along the journey. Matthew 24 and the Advent season invite us to enter into the new cycle with the right attitude to be open to the abundance of gifts awaiting us.
Interestingly, the Biblical texts used frequently used in Advent are about the second coming of Christ. It is kind of strange to start with the anticipated return of Christ if the story of Jesus begins on earth with the arrival of Christ in a crib.
But ADVENT is not so much about the chronological order of the salvation history, “Chronos” in Greek, as the “Kairos,” the opportune time, pregnant time, the time with endless possibilities and potential! Rom 13:11 reminds us: “You know what the “Kairos”/time is. How it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep; the night is far gone, and the day is near!”
Kairos time is about making the most of this moment “now!” Carpe Diem! Seize the day… But how?
Jesus refers to his return to wake us up and evoke an attitude of watchfulness! The title of the passage in Matthew is “The Necessity for Watchfulness.” Notice that the word “watch” appears three(3x) in this passage.
With watchfulness, Jesus emphasizes the theme of unexpectedness in Mt 24:37-51 with four illustrations – the flood of Noah, the working men and women, the thief in the night, and the two types of servants (incidentally, it has nothing to do with rapture). The point of Jesus’ many illustrations on unexpectedness is to arouse readers to expectancy – that is, to stay awake (Mt 24:42, 43) or to be ready (Mt 24:44). The following parables of the ten bridesmaids and the talents further evoke an attitude of expectation, alertness, and watchfulness. At the end of each parable, the alarm goes off to wake us up!
We cannot acquire the gifts available if we stay spiritually asleep! The word used for “sleep” in the Rom 13:11 text is “hupnos.” Scripture usually refers to literal sleep (Mt 1:24, Lk 9:32, Jn 11:13), but here, it is used to refer to spiritual sleep. Hupnos is the source of our English words “hypnotic, hypnosis, etc.” Encyclopedia Britannica defines sleep as “a state of inactivity with a loss of consciousness & a decrease in responsiveness to events taking place.”
Paul is telling his readers to awaken from their “hypnotic state,” which by default are produced by the world’s enticements. When our attention gets caught up in superficial things, we live absent, unaware, and disconnected from God. In both our Matthew and Romans readings, we find the references to other things capturing or highjacking our attention so that we stay spiritually asleep.
What is very important about Jesus’ teachings about the last days, or the second coming, or the day of judgment is that He wants to evoke an attitude of watchfulness and awareness that would open us up to meet Him when he reveals himself and to receive the gifts, he offers us. It is not so much a theological discussion about the nature of the end times as an invitation to be drawn into the drama of each parable only to be woken up from our “spiritual sleep.”
Only when we are truly awake, focusing our full attention on God: God’s presence, God’s priorities, God’s way of looking at the world, God’s way of being in the world, can we live in thriving abundance!
Imagine for a while that you receive a message that someone you loved dearly, who passed away a while ago, will come back to be with you again! You don’t know when it will be, but the fact is that that person will come back. If you did not lose someone close to you yet, just try to be in the shoes of someone who lost a loved one.
* How would you feel knowing that the person will come back?
– can you feel the excitement, joy, and expectation?
* Can you get a sense of the attitude of watchfulness?
– wherever you go, you will be on the lookout. Maybe you see the person in a shop, or at the market, of as you drive? You will be attentive to the doorbell, the phone, and the person’s voice!
* What priorities would you have?
– Would you prepare the room in the house, the food the person loves, and focus on what that person loves?
* What would be prominent in your mind?
– What thoughts would have mostly? Would you keep the person in mind?
* Your awareness, attention,n and focus would be taken up by that person…
Now with this attitude of watchfulness and expectation, imagine the moment that person arrives! How blissful, how fulfilling, how overjoyed and content you would be.
This is the invitation for the attitude and the realization in our spiritual life! Living with the expectation of meeting Jesus, not in the future, but here now, each and every day, in the pregnant now(Kairos)! That would make all the difference.
This attitude can be cultivated and nurtured! The focus of our attention is the focus of our lives. We can practice directing our awareness and attention to the presence of God.
Imagine how it would be if Jesus were visiting your home this afternoon! How would you feel, how would you prepare, how would you be watchful for his arrival, and be focused entirely on his presence!!! In full attentiveness to every word and gesture.
Actually, you don’t have to imagine it anymore because Jesus is here with you. HewWill be with you when you arrive home and as we approach the rest of Advent and the liturgical year!
Now beloved….I invited you earlier: “Imagine expecting Jesus to visit you.” The texts of the second coming is not a declaration that Jesus is absent; that Jesus is only present when he was on earth, and then he left us and will only be with us when he comes back….
This morning at the “Candle Lighting” at the beginning of the service, we heard the words: Today we light the first candle. The first candle reminds us that as we wait upon the Lord we do so with a sense of heightened awareness. In a world where our attention is easily diverted in many directions, Advent is a time to quiet ourselves and listen for God’s word with expectant ears. This Advent may we hear and receive the message of the One who continues to speak.
JESUS is coming to us every day!!! IT IS CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY!!! The more attentive and watchful we live, the more we will meet the Present One!
It is crucial to notice that this word translated here as “coming of the Son of Man” is a technical term that the Gospels and Paul use with a profound meaning. There are libraries full of books with discussions about the so-called “parousia.” That is the Greek word used in this text and others translated by “coming” of Christ!
I read from the New Testament Greek Lexicon: “Parousia” (parousia), a word fairly common in Greek, with the meaning “presence.” Parousia is a combination of two Greek words para = “with”,+ “ousia” = being (ousia is the participial form of the verb eimi = to be), which together literally mean to be alongside. Parousia then literally means a being beside or a presence. The word denotes both an arrival and a consequent presence with the person.
Example: Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only as in my presence (parousia) but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…
2 Corinthians 10:10 For they say, (referring to the Apostle Paul) ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence (parousia) is weak, and his speech contemptible.’
In Hellenistic Greek, παρουσία had acquired the technical meaning of the presence of the gods, manifested in acts of power, or assumed to be an invisible reality in the cult.
The Church borrowed this technical usage to express its doctrine of the presence of the risen Christ to conclude salvation history. There will be a tremendous final coming of Christ—but really, He is always coming.
The second coming of the Son of Man is the fulfillment of the coming that started in the crib. Jesus refers over and over that, the kingdom of God has broken through. All the miracles as signs of the kingdom of God… The technical term coined by CH Dodd is REALIZED Eschatology. That means that the “Day of the Lord” had arrived!!! Jesus did not relegate God’s reign to the future. He explicitly announced its presence (Lk 11:20) and indicated its arrival with signs. The present is eschatological time. Signs are all around us…
Both Matthew and Romans say that if you look with watchfulness, you will notice that Christ is near! ROM 13:12the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; 13let us live honourably as in the day, …. 14Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ!
The invitation for this time is: Put on the Lord Jesus Christ … like a garment. Live in the lights of Jesus’s light. Live with love as v 10 beautifully invites us to.
The “end time” is the time between the two advents of Jesus’ First and Second coming. In the time between the two events, the Spirit of Christ is in us, with us, and among us! Christ is even closer than a physical body next to us. With Watchfulness, we meet the present Christ every day!
Joan Chittister says: “Advent(Christmas) brings us all back to the crib of life to start over again: aware of what has gone before, conscious that nothing can last, but full of hope that this time, finally, we can learn what it takes to live well, grow to full stature of soul and spirit…“
Beloved, IT IS CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY when we live with WATCHFULNESS!!!
Martin Luther wrote a parable about Satan conversing with his minions (demons) on their progress in opposing the truth of God and destroying the souls of humans.
– One spirit said there was a company of Christians crossing the desert. “I loosed the lions upon them, and soon the sands of the desert were strewn with their mangled corpses.”
“What of that?” answered Satan. “The lions destroyed their bodies, but their souls were saved. It is their souls that I am after.”
– Another reported, “There was a company of Christian pilgrims sailing through the sea on a vessel. I sent a great wind against the ship that drove the ship on the rocks, and every Christian aboard the ship drowned.”
“What of that?” said Satan. “Their bodies were drowned in the sea, but their souls were saved. It is their souls that I am after.”
– The third came forward to give his report, and he said, “For ten years ,I have been trying to cast a Christian into a deep sleep, and at last I have succeeded.”
And with that, the corridors of Hell rang with shouts of malignant triumph.
Awake! Awake! Hear the call of the Lord while we are in the light of his presence!
Our motto could mirror that of the Boy Scouts of America: BE PREPARED.
A beautiful illustration of preparedness is that of a woman waiting at the train station for her fiancé to come. He was coming in on the train, and they were going to get married. She was there, waiting for the train, waiting for the train—looking, listening, longing. The old stationmaster was there also. He had all of the charts; he had all of the schedules. He knew about the facts of that train coming. But he was not expecting like she was, because her bridegroom was on that train. We are invited to receive the spirit of that young lady.
Come, Lord Jesus! Come, Lord Jesus!
With prayerful pleas
and Advent songs of longing,
I await the birth of God’s anointed One.
Come, O Gift of heaven’s harmony,
and attune my third ear,
the ear of my heart,
so that I may hear,
just as Mary, faithful woman of Israel, heard.
O God, the time is short,
these days are too few
as I prepare for the feast
of the birth of Mary’s son.
Busy days, crowded to the brim,
with long lists of gifts to buy
and things that must be done.
Show to me, also your highly favoured child,
how to guard my heart
from noise and hurry’s whirl, so that I may hear your voice
calling my heart to create an empty space
that might be pregnant with heaven’s fire.
Quiet me within,
clothe my body in peacefulness,
that your Word
once again may take flesh –
this time, within me –
as once it did in holy Mary,
long Advent days ago.