As we think about the Bible readings we have heard today, I wanted to draw together specific phrases from each of these readings like pieces of a jigsaw that once assembled speak into this our first Sunday of Advent.
In the first reading from Jeremiah, God declared through his prophet that “the days are coming.” In the second reading from Isaiah , the prophet declares “in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned”; the third reading, also from Isaiah, is where the prophet tells the people of God “the Lord himself will give you a sign.” In our reading from Romans “The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” And finally, our Gospel reading ends with “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
In my advent reflection for this 1st Sunday of Advent I spoke about waiting. We often think of waiting as being something that is passive. Yet when we look at times in the Bible where people ‘waited on the Lord’, these were almost always very dynamic times, blessed times filled with creativity and purpose. In the 21st century, an ‘instant everything’ age, people struggle with waiting and the time it gives us; that precious time, is all too often wasted.
2020 has been a tough year, where we have had to put off and postpone many things we might have had planned. We wait for what 2021 might have in store…a successful immunisation against Covid-19, the possibility of a free trade agreement successfully negotiated with the EU, a new job, an operation that has been postponed or opportunities to meet once again with family and friends. There’s the longing, the yearning, and the waiting. Advent is like God’s gift to us, space where we can choose to ‘wait well’ and refocus and redirect our lives at the ending of a year as we wait for a new one to begin. It is a purposeful and practical waiting. It is a time when we can be mindful of His presence, His light and His love. We perhaps feel very poignantly in our current waiting that the day is coming – and the day we are perhaps hoping for at the moment is when the challenge and threat of Covid is truly diminished and many of the things that we have been prevented from doing can resume. We know, don’t we, how that feels? But there is an even more significant day that is coming as we wait on Jesus Christ. In Advent, there is a sense that we are renewing, re-connecting, re-focussing in our time of watching and waiting on this journey towards Christmas. But there is also a sense that we are waiting for Jesus’ second coming, mindful of how we pray may your Kingdom come, may your will be done. What we have an opportunity to do in this gift of Advent and in that “waiting well” is to seek to connect more deeply with God, to “keep watch” and to get ready – to figuratively make sure we have a plentiful supply of oil for our lamps and that they are well trimmed.