HOMILY ADVENT SUNDAY 01 – A
Put on Christ and be Ready
(Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44)
Perhaps you have seen a billboard that reads, complete with pointing finger “Are you ready for Jesus’ return?”
This Advent, put on Christ, and be ready to meet Jesus in the most unexpected places.
Sauer, of San Antonio, Texas, wrote in the Living With Christ some years back: “Every Advent is the start of a new creation as we open our hearts and our minds to Jesus. But we must be prepared to welcome him when he comes. Where are those places in our lives where we least expect to find Jesus: at home? at work? at school? in a club? in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, or a welfare office? Where have we lost all hope for a new creation? It is there, in those places, that the gospel for today proclaims that Jesus may just appear.”
The first reading today invites us to walk in God’s ways, to walk in the light of the Lord. The second reading invites us to lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. The gospel calls us to be ready to meet the Lord when he comes again. Paul’s letter to the Romans goes to the core of the matter – he asks us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” So put on Christ, and be ready to meet Jesus in the most unexpected places.
I can say that I have met Jesus in many unexpected ways. One was during a workshop put on by the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI). Cherie Brown, a Jewish woman who grew up in New York where she found herself constantly dealing with multi-cultural tensions and challenges, founded this organization. The peace-making skills she picked up naturally in that environment helped her to create an organization that now helps others deal with cultural, political and religious conflict. In creative and often surprising ways, the activities she put our group through taught us to be more aware of our feelings; to trust the group and to honestly communicate our thoughts and feelings in safe, respectful yet assertive ways. The sessions helped us to become aware of our own prejudices, racism in ourselves and helped us understand where others were coming from – in short, to put on Christ.
Another surprising situation in which I met Jesus at work in me and others was a 12 Step pilgrimage. The participants were put in small groups or families for sharing and dialogue after each presentation and got to know each other very well. A young girl opened up and trusted the group, something she had never done before. Another young adult the first session was obviously hiding behind the mask of makeup and perfect dress (she was a fashion designer), and struggled to identify her feelings. By the second day, she was literally transformed into her more genuine self. She was even able to dress in a more casual fashion that reflected her new freedom.
Another program that is now sweeping across Western Canada and helped many to meet Jesus in new ways is the Returning To Spirit program, designed to help survivors of the Indian Residential School experience healing and move beyond victimhood. This unique program taught us skills for more effective communication leading to reconciliation and forgiveness and the ability to love ourselves and others more deeply. It taught us that a declaration must be part of an apology for that apology to be genuine and effective. It brought Indigenous and non-Indigenous Church people together for a time of intense learning, sharing, healing and reconciliation – precisely what Jesus was all about.
Visiting people and sharing with others are both places and times when we meet Jesus. We are challenged to love, listen, understand and accept. We are also inspired by the courage, heroism, patience, love, hospitality and generosity that we encounter. That helps us to put on Christ and be ready to meet him because we have met him in others. The saying that I found in my father’s bible after he died is certainly true: “To be closer to God, be closer to people.”
I can honestly say the new and unique Aurora Living program for personal growth and spiritual development we are currently running at the Star of the North, is also helping people put on Christ. This program brings together the Word of God, care for creation, contemplative living, inter-generational and inter-cultural community, and justice as right relationships. Participants have shared it is changing their attitudes and opening them up to a greater appreciation of God’s love, creation, Indigenous reality and incarnational spirituality.
It’s up to us. This Advent can be just another Sunday marking the beginning of another “business as usual” Church year, or it can be the beginning of a new creation, of a new year of enjoying the inner light and warmth of Christ living within and among us.
For Corbin Eddy, the end of the world and the beginning of this new creation comes in a variety of ways for different people at different times, as God through the events of life, strips away certain presuppositions and assumptions about how things have been and are always going to be. Even elements that seem essential may be stripped away.
The Eucharist is a meeting with Jesus through word, community and sacrament. May our celebration help us to approach this Advent as a time of joyful preparation to see, recognize and experience the coming of Christ into our lives and our world in surprising situations. So, this Advent, put on Christ and be ready to meet Jesus in the most unexpected places.