1 Advent C – December 2, 2012 – What’s On Your Christmas Wish List?
With only 22 shopping days left what do you want for Christmas? What’s on your list? Do you think you will get what you want?
As a Pakistani Christian is it an end to religious intolerance? If you are a Catholic woman is it equal rights in your Church. If you are a victim of a natural disaster maybe nothing is more important than a swift rebuilding process. If you were an Israeli or Palestinian youth a two state solution might be a great Chanukah gift.
Each year the season of Advent comes at a time of great expectations and collides with a “capitalist extravaganza.”  Originally Advent, which means arrival or coming, was a time of doing penance. Modeled after Lent it was also a period of instruction for those who were preparing to become Christians on the feast of the Epiphany.
Today, Advent emphasizes preparation for two events: 1) Christmas — the memorial of the incarnation of God and 2) the second coming of Christ, a much more mysterious time, when God’s presence will be completely realized and apparent to all. The second one is more compelling because it involves you and me working to advance the kin-dom of God now.
We do not know when the second coming will occur. We do know that we have very concrete hopes between now and then. Advent is a time when the spirits of Scrooge and Santa clash. So much that is still not right in the world is noted on our calendars: Eliminate Violence Against Women Day, Human Rights Day, World Aids Day, Migrants Day, Persons with Disabilities Day. That shopping list is endless.
According to today’s gospel there are signs in the sun, the moon and the earth, signs of redemption drawing near, signs that transformation is going on all around us. Be alert! The world is constantly changing. Be alert for signs in the Middle East, in Congress, in the Vatican, in our church, in our lives. We are often so busy we seldom find the time to think about what is going on around us that affects us.
The first Sunday of Advent offers you and me a time to reflect on what direction our lives are taking. What might be ahead for us as citizens of this country, as members of this church? What might be in store for our parish, our families, our neighborhoods?
In the text we heard from the book of Jeremiah, written either during or after the exile — a slow time of rebuilding and restoration — God said to the Israelites: a branch of “social solidarity” would sprout up for King David who would then spread justice through the lands. Jesus, you and I come from that same root.
The people of God, as described in today’s text from Luke often lived in fear and distress like so many on the planet do today. We heard Mark’s version two weeks ago. Unlike Mark, Luke suggests that the early church will survive, that it will not default, that, in fact, it is just getting started. The synoptic apocalypse such as this one was constantly adjusted to speak to the ever-changing situation of the early Christian community.  So too this gospel speaks to us weighed down by problems but buoyed up by faith, hope and love.
The world is not coming to an end. However, there are signs of urgent need for change. As members of this church we have work to do. The second reading today suggests that God calls us to be abundant in love for one another.
At the celebration of confirmation last Thursday night Bishop Hubbard urged us to adopt a preferential option for serving the least, the most vulnerable people, among us. We do that here at St. Vincent’s through the many choices we make as a faith community — our food pantry, the Giving Tree and the many other parish sponsored programs.
The Youth Day program after liturgies today will focus on Christian virtues and the instruction to love God and one another. Our tradition, to strive for the common good, is being handed down to another generation. We who make up the church are not defaulting but we are changing. We have a future but it is hard to tell what we will look like.
In the meantime, by remembering that we are part of a large human family we engage in a spirit of reciprocal giving. When we serve others we too are sustained. In doing so we continue to give credence to the popular Advent song that Emmanuel is the God who is with us here and now.
Scrooge? Santa? The arrival of real hope, now, through us? What’s on our Christmas wish list will make all the difference.
1 An expression used by CathyT in http://www.catholica.com.au/forum/index.php?mode=thread&id=118738#p118738
2 Reginald H. Fuller. Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today (The Liturgical Press. 1984, Revised Edition), pp. 377-379