Homily — First Sunday of Advent December 3, 2006

Homily — First Sunday of Advent   December 3, 2006

Advent Wreath

  And then they will see the Son of Man coming . . . .with great power and glory.

 Another Season of Advent is upon us.  For the next 22 days the Church invites us to join with her in a centuries old spiritual journey of preparation for the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 Before we can truly get in the “Christmas Spirit,” we first must get in the “Advent Spirit”.  And the Advent Spirit, the Church teaches us, is one of “devout and joyful expectation.”

 We watch in the night, with eager expectation that Jesus is Coming soon, with His love and peace.  He’s coming, as He Himself says in the Gospel, with power and great glory, but only to those who joyfully and devoutly watch for Him this Advent Season.

 So the first thing we must ask God for is to give us a spirit of Joy.  Not so much the emotion of joy, but the spirit of Joy which is none other than the Holy Spirit of Jesus.

 God has already given the Church something to rejoice about this weekend, namely that Our Holy Father Pope Benedict has returned home to Rome yesterday, safe and sound, from his week long trip to Turkey.  We can all breathe a sigh of relief!

 By the way, I don’t know if you know this, but if you love the celebration of Christmas (as I’m sure you all do), you can thank the land of Turkey for its major role in bringing Christmas intact to you and your family.

 Because in 325 AD, Catholic Bishops throughout the Church all gathered in a city in the land of Turkey, and there at the Council of Nicea they condemned the very wide spread Arian heresy which taught that Jesus was not truly God.  Arianism probably would have triumphed in Europe if it weren’t for those bishops in Turkey back then.  And if that had happened, we quite possibly wouldn’t today be celebrating God being born in a manger.  No Silent Night, no Come All Ye Faithful, — God is not born in Bethlehem.

 Not only, though, do we thank Turkey for saving Christmas, we also thank the land of Turkey for giving us Santa!  Because Santa Claus himself, St. Nicholas, was born and raised in the coastal town of Patara in what is today the country of Turkey, also in the 4th century.

  In fact, St. Nicholas was one of the leading Bishops at the Council of Nicea, defending the divinity of Christ and everything that Christmas is all about.  He was even sent into exile for believing that God was born in a manger in Bethlehem. Whether he was exiled to the North Pole I’m not sure ; ) —  but we can see why God has rewarded St. Nicholas with the job he now has of blessing children until the end of time!

 May we join St. Nicholas this Advent in rejoicing that God has truly been born into our world, and that He will be born anew if we hold fast to our faith.

 We rejoice also over another great native of Turkish lands, St. Paul the Apostle, originally from Tarsus (also on the coast of what is modern day Turkey).

 St. Paul’s prayer for us in the second reading should fill us with joy.  He prays:  May the Lord (this Advent) make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all . . . . (May He) strengthen your hearts (this Advent), to be blameless in holiness before . . . . God . . . .at the coming of our Lord Jesus.   St. Paul, who is extra happy in Heaven these days in seeing the successor of Peter just pay a visit to his earthly homeland, is praying this for us as we begin Advent!

 And then Paul gives us a joyful Advent exhortation:  we . . . exhort you in the Lord Jesus that (just) as you are conducting yourselves (to please God) . . . . do so even more.   In other words, St. Paul is telling us “you guys are doing great — now do even better!”

 Such is the Advent spirit of joyful expectation — expecting that God is With Us – He has come in the Flesh and will come soon ever more with His grace and power.  But we aren’t called to be just joyful, but rather joyful and devout during Advent.

 Advent, like Lent, is a time for serious prayer, as we watch and wait in the night for Christ’s coming in the Flesh.  Jesus reminds us of this in the Gospel when He says be vigilant at all times and pray, that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent before my coming.

 In-between us and the coming of Jesus this Christmas my brothers and sisters, there are all these imminent tribulations we must get through.  Each Advent Season has its own batch of personal imminent tribulations testing us.

 Things like the cold weather, long dark winter nights, snow which needs shoveling and an oil bill which needs paying.   The tribulations of family difficulties, sicknesses, and the anxieties of daily life which as Jesus says can cause our hearts to grow weary and cold.

 If we want to get through all these tribulations that are imminent so that we can stand before the Creche Christmas Night with a heart pleasing to Jesus, we must each day of Advent be vigilant and prayerful, taking time each day for spiritual reading and reflection.  The daily Mass readings for Advent are good to reflect on, you can find them online or in our Church bulletin.

 Last but certainly not least, Advent is one of the best times of the year to make a good Confession.  God’s grace is pouring out in abundance during the next 3 weeks, so there’s no easier time to get those sins off our soul and give Jesus the one Christmas gift He’s literally dying for us to give Him.  Next week’s bulletin we will list the times of confessions and penance services here and in the area Churches. 

 My brothers and sisters in Christ, Advent this year is as short as it can be.  Christmas Eve is 3 weeks from today.  May we waste no time then, but start today prayerfully watching and waiting, in joyful and devout expectation, so that we will see the Son of Man coming with power and great glory when Christmas is suddenly upon us.

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