The season of Advent begins this week and continues through the four Sundays of Advent and ends at Christmas Eve. The first week of Advent focuses on the return of the Lord and the following weeks focus more specifically on the anticipation of the birth of Jesus. Rather than simply commemorating an historical event, Advent is a time of preparing our hearts to ‘receive’ Jesus into the world each year. Advent is traditionally marked by the colour of violet – the same colour as used in Lent.
By the time the Church begins to celebrate Advent as a period of preparation towards Christmas, the stores have been filling with Christmas paraphernalia for weeks. It starts out small with a few decorations and wrapping paper and eventually takes over every retail outlet. In the midst of this excess of Christmas consumerism, it is often difficult to draw attention to the season of Advent and the need to prepare spiritually for the celebration of Christmas.
Stay awake! With these words, Jesus cautions his disciples to be constantly vigilant and to be alert to the return of the Lord. It is a very fitting way to begin the season of Advent. Advent has traditionally been observed as a time of preparation and waiting. It culminates in the Christmas season and so the waiting and preparation is related to the celebration of the coming of Christ into the world.
Perhaps the time of preparation this Advent is also a call to stay awake and stay alert in faith. One of the great challenges to faith today is the complacency that has taken hold of many in our society. When life is comfortable, the perceived need for faith appears to diminish. Many young people in our society cannot see the value of religious belief or religious practice. In a world of instant communication and instant ‘satisfaction’, the reflective and slow work of faith can seem too much effort for some people. The gospel call to stay awake in preparation for the coming of the Lord is a call to continue the work of bringing about the Kingdom of God.
It is important to stay awake, as we are cautioned in this week’s gospel. Awake to what is happening around us in the world and awake to what is happening within us. Especially as our lives become extremely hectic and chaotic during the festive season and the end of the school year.
as we patiently wait,
open our hearts so that they may be filled
with your light and love.