The hustle and bustle of the Christmas season is upon us. Shopping, baking, cards, carols, parties, and with all of that activity, do we take time to stop and think about what this season is really about?
Last Sunday began the liturgical season of Advent. Advent comprises the four Sundays before Christmas, but it is more than just cutesy calendars and lighting candles, it’s meant to be a season to prepare and be prepared.
For those that might not be aware, I run a ministry at my Parish called Children’s Liturgy of the Word. I am a Catholic Christian, and our Mass is divided into two parts: Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. In short, the first part is the Old and New Testament readings and Gospel and homily (or sermon); the second, communion. My program takes the children out of the Sanctuary for the readings and Gospel, Prayer of the Faithful and Intentions (or prayers for our needs as a community and country) and then returns them back to the Sanctuary for the start of the Eucharistic Liturgy, or prayers to prepare us for Communion and taking Communion.
I read the Old Testament reading and Gospel to the kids and prepare a short homily for them. It’s my job to help them understand the Word of God. This First Sunday of Advent, the first reading was Jeremiah 33:14-16 and the Gospel Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36.
Jeremiah talked about the days coming “when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah” through the House of David, or Jesus, and that “Jerusalem will dwell in safety”; or as the version I use with the kids said “will be peaceful.”
Jeremiah, I believe, wasn’t only talking about Christ coming 2000+ years ago, but foretelling his second coming as well. He spoke of Jerusalem being “safe” or “peaceful.” It certainly wasn’t during Christ’s life, and definitely isn’t now, far from it. I asked the kids to describe Jerusalem now. Even the little ones said “scary.” They know. They hear us talk, and see the news. But as I told the children, won’t it be peaceful after He comes again? Advent isn’t just the remembrance of the first waiting, but a reminder to us that we are still waiting. He promised to come back to us.
My liturgy resource for the children didn’t use Luke for the first week, but instead used Matthew 24:36-44 which was the story of the householder preparing if he knew when a thief was coming. This, to the children, made sense, and I could help them to realize that we don’t know when He is coming again, but we should be ready in our hearts. The actual reading for this year, Luke, has Christ describing the end times: “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Scary stuff for 4-12 year olds … or for adults. Hopeful too, if you can get past the terror and apprehension, roaring seas and anguish! We don’t know when this will happen, and soothsayers have been predicting for centuries about the end times. But look at Luke. The “nations will be in anguish” and people will be “apprehensive of what is coming on the world…” Aren’t we?
Hope for peace in the Middle East is a joke. Americans are hopeless about our future both fiscally and morally. Terrorists daily affect the lives of millions worldwide. I don’t know about you, but that certainly sounds like anguish or apprehension to me! So as Christmas approaches, ask yourself daily, are we ready? Are we prepared for that thief in the night? Are we seeing the signs? I’m not talking about hoarding supplies and holing up in a bunker. I’m talking about are we ready in our hearts to see Him when He comes again? Are we?
Image: Advent Sunday in Vaxholm’s church 2008; originally posted to Flickr as IMG_3624-1; author: Bengt Nyman