Today we begin the season of Advent. The word "advent" comes from the Latin "adventus" meaning, "to come." But what is it that we are waiting for? The world would have us think that we are waiting for the birth of the Child Jesus at Christmas - after all, we've had Christmas decorations up in the shops for a while now. In fact, some in the Church would tell you that this is what we are waiting for.
But the reality is quite different. We have already had the birth of Christ. He was born some 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. The Church reminds us of a cycle of life over the course of the year. This cycle begins with the anticipation of the birth, the birth itself, the death and the resurrection of Our Saviour - all within the space of a few months. The remainder of the year is when the Church has us live out these special events.
But what is it that we are awaiting? What is to come?
Our Gospel today speaks of "signs" in the heavens - the sun, the moon and the stars in dismay. People will be confused and wandering, looking, searching for something. Anything that will provide them some comfort, something that they can hold on when everything seems so precarious, so perishable, so petty.
These are the signs of the second coming. They are also the signs that the enemy uses to confuse and conflict us. Think back to the fear and uncertainty as we neared the end of the 20th century. So many were afraid that the world would come to an end before the arrival of the 21st century. Yet here we are, living and breathing.
So what is it that we are awaiting? What is to come?
We await the Second Coming, This Second Coming will mean the full establishment of the Kingdom of God. And we need to be ready but one of my friends said ‘Oh Father, we’re nor ready for the Second Coming yet. We’ve just had new curtains!’ The problem, of course, is that we don't know when the Seconding Coming will be. So, we remind ourselves of our need to wait while remembering what has already come to pass.
But we do look at the birth of the infant Jesus, not as if it were to happen, but because of what it means for us. A child needs to be cared for, nurtured, fed, bathed, held and loved. This is, in fact, our task. While we await the Second Coming we are to care for the Kingdom that is already and not yet. We are to serve each other and the Church faithfully. We are the ones who will feed and bathe and clothe and love. We are the ones who will teach the Faith, who will build up Christ’s Kingdom, who will share our faith with those who come after us.
On this First Sunday of Advent we are reminded that we can spend all our time waiting and doing nothing, or we can be about our Father's business while we wait. It is on this that we will be judged. It is on this that our very lives depend.
The last three words of the Alexandre Dumas novel ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ present for us a summary of our attitude: wait and hope. But while we wait and hope, we must also work!