As we enter the new liturgical year, the Season of Advent stretches before us. This year we get pretty much the full four weeks of this beautiful season, so let us try not to waste any of it. In these strange times of pandemic let us embrace the great gifts which Advent pours out upon us and apply them to our lives in order that we can experience anew our faith as a focus for renewal and reset. The very word Advent means arrival or coming, and we tend to apply it more often than not to the coming of Christ at Christmas. But the Church wants us to think about the other coming of Christ, that is his coming in the fulness of time and of how our understanding of this reality must become deeply embedded in our appreciation of how in our lives, this reality is made manifest. To do this well, we need to examine and explore our situations and circumstances and ask ourselves some questions. What are my priorities, my ambitions? What lies at the very heart of my motivations and desires? How do I see my faith as the defining factor of my very self? In answering these questions, the themes which flow through the cycle of the four Advent Sunday’s First and Gospel readings will bring to our minds ways by which we can address these thoughts. For this First Sunday of Advent the two thoughts which come to my mind are: The work of God and Awakening, the Second Sunday arouses thoughts of Consolation and Beginning. The third, Proclamation and Prophecy and the fourth Continuity and Annunciation. Over the four weeks of Advent these couplings will be considered and applied so that our arrival and our coming to Christ will, with his help, be a joyful renewal of all that is good and uplifting about our lives. So then for this First Sunday of Advent let us begin with some thoughts across the themes of the Work of God and Awakening.
The image of God as the potter is a delightful one. He is the creator who moulds us and shapes us. The Father who knows us and nurtures us. The one who cares for us and tends us. We are not fixed in stone, petrified, unable to change or develop. Rather God has breathed his life into us and as a consequence, we become endowed with potential and possibilities. We discover this potential as we grow and develop and begin to explore all the possibilities which unfold as a result. There are though times when we lose touch and the pathways which we once trod and which guided us to his house, no longer seem easy or straightforward. We can become disillusioned and begin to walk other paths and other ways. The demands placed upon us can become overwhelming and can if we are not careful become alternative and replacement paths which in the first instance seem more fulfilling and more rewarding. Somehow the Father who knows and cares for us is no longer there and he begins to fade away. We forget him and ignore him, his hand no more upon us. No longer does he mould us like clay. Instead we think of our- selves as the finished product, able to fend for ourselves, able to choose without restraint, decide with- out compunction. Such is our falling asleep.
Hence the call to awakening. The allusion of Jesus in the gospel to a man travelling abroad and leaving the servants in charge is reminiscent of many of his parables about the kingdom. But here in this instance the allusion is to be applied to us individually. The house is our own selves, our being, our lives. The servants are all the myriad of activities we have got ourselves involved with, pulling us this way and that in order to serve our needs, and the door keeper is our conscience, that inner sense that talks to us of what is moral, of what is right and wrong about the things we do. Have we let our conscience drift off to sleep? Have we let our sense of being shaped and moulded by God simply fade away and disappear? It is a sobering thought for this first Sunday of Advent. Let us rouse ourselves and ensure that we stay awake!