First Sunday of Advent
1) Jer 33:14-16
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14
2) 1 Thes 3:12-4:2
Gospel: Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
The first time we hear of the mission of John the Baptist is his activity in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth. As Luke tells us, soon after Mary said “yes” to God’s plan of salvation revealed by the archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation, the mother of Jesus hastened to visit Elizabeth, her relative.
At that graced visitation, Elizabeth greets Mary with joyful faith as the two women exult in God’s marvelous deeds in their lives. Then Elizabeth recounts that when Mary’s greeting reached her ears the child in her womb leaped for joy.
From the womb of Elizabeth, his mother, John the Baptist began his mission of evangelization, preparing hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus the light of the world.
On this First Sunday of Advent, the readings of Scripture invite us to put on an Advent spirit of heart and mind, in imitation of John the Baptist.
In the first reading, we listen to the prophet Jeremiah’s message of hope and expectation: “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot, he shall do what is right and just in the land.”
In the Gospel, Jesus warns his disciples about dramatic signs in nature that point to the return of the son of Man in power and glory.
Jesus’ words in Luke echo the Gospel two weeks ago when Mark tells of Jesus’ warning of a time of tribulation with signs of the coming of the son of man in power and glory.
His words may tempt us to fear these unknown, cataclysmic predictions. But Jesus offers his disciples, and us, three paths of spiritual renewal on our Advent journey.
Jesus invites our joyful hope when he says, “Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”
He cautions against spiritual sluggishness amid the pleasures and the anxieties of daily life.
And finally, Jesus urges watchfulness in the spiritual sense of alertness to God’s love in our life and the demands of mercy to those in need.
The church offers us these words of Jesus to highlight the spiritual gifts we can grow in during Advent — a renewed sense of hope in God’s loving nearness to us, a fresh spiritual alertness to God’s word and sacramental presence, and watchfulness and humble gratitude for the marvelous works of God amid the anxieties and challenges of daily life.
And at the heart of Advent is the prayer of the second reading: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love.” Like John the Baptist, the Advent saint par excellence, we are called to be joyful witnesses to faith in God’s love revealed in Jesus, no matter where we are.
In this way, we become missionary disciples evangelizing others with a divine message of hope, alertness to God’s love and joyful expectation as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
How will you prepare for the coming of the Lord Jesus this Advent?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.