Advent Reflections by Jennifer Geach
First Sunday of Advent
5th December 2017
Happy New Year. Although the secular celebration is a month away, for Christians the first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical cycle. The Gospel readings on the ‘ordinary’ Sundays (that is the thirty two or three Sundays which are outside Advent, Christmastide, Lent and Easter) will come from Mark, whereas last year’s readings were from Mathew, and next year’s from Luke. It is good to notice the change in the diet of Scripture which feeds us in our Sunday Liturgy, and one of our Advent resolutions might be to prepare for the readings from Mathew’s gospel by finding more out about the background to the text. Vatican radio offers some helpful material.
Advent is a curious time. Our secular friends, and perhaps we, are very busy preparing for Christmas, and workplaces throw Christmas parties starting from November; for non-Christians, the year is winding down and fizzling out. And Christmas, when it comes after a month of partying and frequent insobriety is often a let-down; it is said that more people feel suicidal at Christmas than at other times of year. This sorry state of affairs should be far from the Christian celebration: Advent for us should be a time of reflection and joyous preparation for the grandest party of them all: we should remember that Christmas is God’s birthday party, to which we are all invited. As St Leo puts it “No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life. For the Son of God in the fullness of time which the inscrutable depth of the Divine counsel has determined, has taken on him the nature of man , thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered through that (nature) which he had conquered.”
We are reminded in the readings for Advent of two events: we recall with awe, joy and wonder God’s first coming to earth, the marvellous exchange, in which He takes our life to Himself, so that we may come to share in His life. But we are also invited by the readings on Sundays and during the week that Christ’s first advent is a merciful stay of the judgement of God: and that at the end of the age, Christ will return, and will judge the living and the dead. So as we rejoice at God’s birthday, we should also look forward to his coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and to take up his eternal throne.