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First Sunday of Advent (Year A) 1st December 2019

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Gospel Matthew 24:37-44

Jesus said to his disciples: "As it was in Noah's day, so will it be when the Son of Man comes. For in those days before the Flood people were eating, drinking, taking wives, taking husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and they suspected nothing till the Flood came and swept all away. It will be like this when the Son of Man comes. Then of two men in the fields one is taken, one left; of two women at the millstone grinding, one is taken, one left.
So stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming. You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."


One day while filing away papers, the secretary of President John F. Kennedy found this note written in the President's own hand. It read: 'I know there is a God and I see a storm coming. If he has a place for me, I believe that I am ready.' Jesus' warning to be ready and Kennedy's readiness to serve invite us to ask: How ready are we to put ourselves at God's service for whatever God may ask us to do? As Isaiah the prophet put it, 'I heard the Lord say, 'whom shall I send?' I answered 'I will go, send me!' (Isaiah 6:8).
Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day on the Sunday nearest to the 30th November, the Feast of St. Andrew. The word 'advent' means 'coming' or 'arrival'. It's about keeping watch. The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and looking forward to his return as King in his Second Advent. In this double focus on past and future,
Advent also symbolises the spiritual journey of every individual and every community in the here and now. We affirm that Christ has come, that he is present in the world today, and that he will come again in power.
The four Sundays of Advent symbolise the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ. Advent stresses the importance of the human ancestors of Jesus, the patriarchs and the prophets as demonstrated by the key positioning of St Matthew's genealogy read at Masses on the 17th December.
In spite of all kinds of predictions, allegedly from the sayings of the saints and other holy people, no one knows the time of the Second Coming, only God, and that it will come upon men and women with the suddenness of a rain storm out of a blue sky. They tell us that that time will come with shattering suddenness on those who are immersed in material things. In the Genesis story, Noah prepared himself in the calm weather before the flood and when it did come, he was ready. But the rest of humanity was lost in the 'eating and drinking and merrying' and were caught completely unawares and so were swept away. These verses are a warning to us never to become so immersed in time that we forget eternity, that there is a God and that the issues of life and death are in his hands, and that whenever his call comes, at morning, at midday
or evening, it must find us ready. God has kept the ultimate knowledge of his Son's coming to himself and his wisdom, so all life must be a constant preparation for that coming. To live without watchfulness invites disaster. Thieves do not send a letter or a text saying when they are going to burgle a house. The principle weapon in their undertakings is the element of surprise. So the household must maintain a constant guard.
However, we must remember that the watching of the Christian for the coming of Christ is not that of terror- stricken fear or shivering apprehension, rather it is the eager expectation for the coming of glory and joy. The spirit that leads to disaster is the spirit that says there is plenty of time to put things right before the Master returns. Our earnest hope is that when Jesus Christ does come, he will find us employed in doing our duty, however simple that duty may be. On the day that he comes there will be great joy. We could say with the late President Kennedy, 'If he has a place for me, I believe that I am ready'.

Kevin Lyon
Archdeacon of Glendalough


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