First Sunday of Advent reflection by Kelly Deehan

Advent is finally here. I am ready to leap off the starting block in anticipation, with a to do list and grand plans in hand. How are you feeling about the start of Advent? Stress? Joyful anticipation? Weary? All responses are welcome on this first Sunday of Advent.

Maybe you are feeling the same way as me. Ready for this liturgical season to begin to focus and anticipate, setting aside some of my weariness. I love Advent and I especially love writing about Advent. I was so excited to be given this Sunday for my scripture reflection. But then, we are hit with this apocalyptic Gospel and it wasn’t what I was initially hoping for as we start this time of joyful anticipation.

But the Church knows what we need and today’s Gospel wakes us up and forces our eyes to adjust. While the coming of Christ in the manger and the second coming are not the identical, they are both these radical events, which should inspire awe within us. Christ coming to us in the manger was not the “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory,” as we hear Christ explain will happen at the end of time, but it was shocking just the same and even more radical in its unexpectedness and humility.

Today’s Gospel reminds us of this paradox as we anticipate the Christ child. We are challenged with this imagery to anticipate Him who enters into human history in grand and unexpected ways, drawing near. Both of these moments of arrival are ones we are continually reminded to prepare for, along with our death, throughout the Old and New Testaments. Once I am past the moment of shock that comes every time I read about the end of days, I am able to appreciate these readings as calls to preparation for the coming of the Lord.

We hear St. Paul give these warnings and a calling to live more closely to the instructions of Christ. He does not scold the Thessalonians for not living this way already, but is challenging them to more. How do we do that? As we begin this season, whether with weariness or high expectations, we can try to enter into the quiet darkness of this season to hear the words of our Lord, letting him guide us this Advent. It is there we can begin to hear Christ call us deeper into instruction, to hear him personally lead you to what will be most beneficial as we prepare and anticipate the coming of the Light.

What might this look like? It may not be taking on a new ambitious prayer routine, it might be spending you mornings in the quiet with Him. Is he calling you to take stock of your heart? Are you ready to receive him at Christmas? Prepare by receiving the gift of the sacrament of reconciliation this season. Have we become “drowsy from the anxieties of daily life” as Jesus warns? So much so that we are unable to enter into awe and wonder when we look at the reality of the Incarnation laying in the manger? Try praying with a nativity scene, meditating on the way that Jesus chose to enter into humanity.

These readings offer us a chance to stop and contemplate the season ahead on this first day of Advent. Cleaning out our eyes and our hearts offers us the chance to receive more fully this season. To not just spend time in anticipation, as I often wish to spend this season, but to not ignore the call to prepare as well. Dorothy Day once compared her own heart to a stable, which Christ purposely chooses to enter into, knowing its state. It is a hopeful truth that our hearts are never a truly worthy dwelling place for Him, but He still comes and our own mangers can be lovingly prepared and ready to receive Him with great wonder and awe for His love.