This Sunday is New Year’s Day in the Church’s liturgical calendar. With the first Sunday of Advent, we begin the liturgical year of 2022. And as is customary on every New Year’s Day, there is need to make a new year resolution; there is need for a new beginning; there is need to start all over again by focusing on the basics of our spiritual life.
For us to have a great new beginning, the old order must have to be destroyed. The old kingdom must give way for the coming of God’s kingdom, which is the kingdom of God’s righteousness and love. That is why he said, “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.” So, the apocalyptic glee evident in the gospel reading of today is not about the end of the world. There will be destruction for sure, there will be heartache as the old forms are destroyed, but this is all just the sadness of giving up a lie we’ve lived in too long.
By looking at those apocalyptic images in the gospel today, Advent is reminding us that necessary things- things worth waiting for- happen in the dark. Next spring’s seeds break open in dark winter soil. God’s Spirit hovers over dark water, preparing to create worlds. The child we wait for grows in the deep darkness of the womb. “Our food is expectation,” writes Nora Gallagher about Advent. In this season, we strive to find “not perfection, but possibility.”
The coming of Jesus at Christmas is, therefore, the coming of the new kingdom. How are you preparing to welcome him? Are you going to stand erect and raise your head or are you going to bow your head in drowsiness? Jesus is telling us to “be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.”
We who are ready to welcome this new kingdom of God should be like those small farmers who are learning how to plough with a mule or grow food without synthetic fertilizers, not as some abstract hobby, but as preparation for the world that will come. But how do we do this? We get some hints in our epistle reading where Paul prays, “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all” and “may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”
Our task now is to gather and become communities of agape, outposts of the kingdom where we learn to love each other and move our lives ever more closely to the pattern of Christ. Our churches are where we start this work- calling each other to get off the couch of the world as it is and preparing for a world where God reigns in justice, love and goodness.