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Bible Reflections View Comments

Advent Is too Important to Miss
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, December 1, 2013
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“The night is advanced; the day is at hand”—a paradoxical thought at the beginning of Advent, coming as it does in the winter of the year when the days are ever shorter, the nights longer, darker, colder. This very discrepancy jolts us into awareness. It is easy to be wrapped up in our own comfort at this time of year. In our attempts to escape the threat of snow and the starkness of black tree branches against cold skies, we build fires in the fireplace or turn up the furnace. We have festive meals. We shop and decorate and bake for Christmas celebrations.

But Advent calls us to an awareness of something beyond the comfort and cheer of Christmas traditions, calls us into the winter of the year to see the beauty of waiting—darkness waiting for light, emptiness waiting for fullness, cold waiting for warmth, hearts waiting for love.

Our Gospel today warns us not to be lulled to sleep by daily routines and the flurry of holiday activity. Jesus condemns the people of Noah’s time not for their activities, but for their indifference to the realities of life in their midst. Too often we like to pretend there’s nothing beyond the next festivity.

Advent is a time to prepare ourselves not for a whirl of Christmas parties but for the Lord, who is continually breaking into our lives.

We might shake our heads at the obvious truth in Jesus’s statement: “If the owner knew when the thief was coming, he would not let him break into the house.” In these days of elaborate security alarms and neighborhood watch programs, we seem to have decided that the best response is to be always vigilant against threats known and unknown. But have we prepared as well for the coming of the Lord into our lives? How aware are we of the Lord trying to break open our hearts?

Advent calls us to transform our lives because of God’s promise to dwell in our midst. As the liturgical seasons and scriptures cycle around each year, we might begin by asking, “Where was I when this was proclaimed last, and where will I be when it’s proclaimed this year? How has my life changed?”

Advent comes into the darkness of our everyday lives with a promise of love and light, a challenge of conversion, a sense of discovery. Advent is a time to rediscover our faith, to explore who we are and whom we follow. The prophets call us to believe in God’s promise—to take risks, to make difficult choices, to give of ourselves.

Christmas celebrates the first risk Jesus took: being born into our world. Every day we’re called to take the risk of living in that world and transforming it through our belief in God’s promise fulfilled in Jesus the Christ. Grounded in our faith, we discover that taking risks can awaken within us a sense of promise and anticipation, not dread and fear and remorse.

Once when I was a child, the northern lights were making a particularly dazzling display in the skies over our house. My parents tried to wake me for it but said I just wouldn’t wake up enough to go outside. I’ve always regretted missing that experience. Paul tells the Romans: “You know the time; it is the hour for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” And Jesus tells his disciples, “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” They’re not saying this to frighten us, but to make sure we don’t miss the wonder that is Emmanuel.



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James: This James is the brother of John the Evangelist. The two were called by Jesus as they worked with their father in a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already called another pair of brothers from a similar occupation: Peter and Andrew. “He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him” (Mark 1:19-20). 
<p>James was one of the favored three who had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration, the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in Gethsemani. </p><p>Two incidents in the Gospels describe the temperament of this man and his brother. St. Matthew tells that their mother came (Mark says it was the brothers themselves) to ask that they have the seats of honor (one on the right, one on the left of Jesus) in the kingdom. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can’” (Matthew 20:22). Jesus then told them they would indeed drink the cup and share his baptism of pain and death, but that sitting at his right hand or left was not his to give—it “is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23b). It remained to be seen how long it would take to realize the implications of their confident “We can!” </p><p>The other disciples became indignant at the ambition of James and John. Then Jesus taught them all the lesson of humble service: The purpose of authority is to serve. They are not to impose their will on others, or lord it over them. This is the position of Jesus himself. He was the servant of all; the service imposed on him was the supreme sacrifice of his own life. </p><p>On another occasion, James and John gave evidence that the nickname Jesus gave them—“sons of thunder”—was an apt one. The Samaritans would not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to hated Jerusalem. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them...” (Luke 9:54-55). </p><p>James was apparently the first of the apostles to be martyred. “About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a). </p><p>This James, sometimes called James the Greater, is not to be confused with James the Lesser (May 3) or with the author of the Letter of James and the leader of the Jerusalem community.</p> American Catholic Blog Walk the talk. Show, don’t tell. Values are caught, not taught—all variations of one theme: A good example is essential for good parenting.

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