Happy New Year! This is the first Sunday of our new liturgical year - a time of anticipation and a whole new fresh start in life. For the next four weeks, our readings will focus on three things - God's promise of old for a messiah, Anticipation of God's promise kept at Christmas, and God's promise of Jesus' second coming when our "redemption is at hand."
The words of the prophet Jeremiah in our first reading (JER 33:14-16), offered hope to Israelites in exile in Babylon. He prophesied God's promise of the restoration of Jerusalem and an heir (a just shoot) to the throne of David who would reign as king forever. If there was one thing the Israelites knew, it was that God keeps his promises.
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 those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: “The LORD our justice.”
In our Gospel reading (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36), Jesus describes a frightful time of tribulation when the final judgement comes and Jesus returns. But for the faithful and vigilant ones, "stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand."
Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
In our Epistle reading (Thessalonians 3:12 - 4:2), St. Paul gives us advice on how we are to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. This advice holds true for both the first coming of Christ at Christmas and for his second coming at the end of time. This advice is perhaps something we could write in a Christmas letter to our own children.
Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.
Finally, brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God and as you are conducting yourselves you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.
This advent season is a time of looking to the past and looking to the future but with the purpose of influencing our present. Just as Jesus comes into the world anew at Christmas, so too he comes into our hearts anew. This is a time of preparation for that glorious visit.
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