The First Sunday of Advent - Reflection

'understanding the present time: the hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, 
because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.’ Romans 13:11

Brothers and sisters, morning alarms, don’t you just hate them. However, what’s worse than a morning alarm, is a morning alarm, when you’re already late. Maybe you hit snooze! Maybe you set the alarm clock wrong! Whatever it is, you’ve dozed and it’s way past time to be up and on with the day. In your mind, you go over everything you should have done, and realise you’re just not ready! Late alarm calls, I hate them! The season we enter today is meant to act as an alarm call. Advent literally means ‘coming’ and is the time of the Church’s year when we look back to the first coming of Christ (at Christmas) and forward to the second coming of Christ (at the end of the world). However, the world ignores Advent, and as a result, most of the world is asleep to the second coming of Jesus. So the readings which the Church gives us—the readings used for this Sunday for at least the last 1400 years—are meant to rouse us from that sleep. Like when your bedroom alarm goes off late, the experience of being rudely awakened isn’t the most fun, but it’s absolutely necessary if we’re not to miss out.

Most Christians—myself included—are like those who have heard the alarm call, hit snooze 4 or 5 times, and now—with the arrival of Advent—have jumped up out of bed, and are struggling to get dressed in time. By this time we should have prayed; we should already be giving generously to those in need; we should be knocking on others’ doors to wake them up; and we should be serving God whole-heartedly. Instead we’ve been hitting snooze. We’re late and unprepared, but at least we are now aware of it! And if we are aware of it, we should desperately be asking, what should I do? In answer, the Church has given us the reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul is writing to Christians just like us and says verse 11: ‘understanding the present time: the hour has already come  for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now  than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.’ St Paul knows that we’re scrabbling around still half asleep, still trying to get our direction,as the alarm clock is going off, and Jesus is knocking on our door. And Paul wants to help us! He wants us to get ready for when Jesus arrives. And so, the apostle tells us what we need to stop doing, verse 13: ‘Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.’ Then he goes on to tell us what we’re to start doing verse 9: ‘The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbour.  Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.’ If we are now clear-minded, we know as we look at those lists of things we shouldn’t be doing, that we have all been doing some of them. Again as we look at the call to love our neighbour we know—if we’re honest—we haven’t been doing as much as we might. We are late! Jesus is knocking at the door, and we haven’t had time to brush our hair, let alone put on our shoes. We have been asleep, and we are not ready! However, and here is the Good news, at least now we know!

How is it for you? When you’re in a panic, how do you go about getting yourself back on track? For me it is calming myself down, and then working out what are the first and most vital steps I can take to get back on track. How can I get moving in the right direction? There is now nothing to be done about the time that is lost, but I can make the most of the time I have now. This morning the Church’s Advent alarm call has gone off and hopefully we are now awake, and so we can start doing something about it. So what should we do? The first thing to do, is to clear our heads, and make sure we don't fall asleep again. For Christians we are meant to do this each day with our prayer time. So we don’t get hit over the head and surprised by the sudden arrival of Jesus, we read a little bit of the bible each day, that way we can know for what’s coming. We then take the time to clear our heads, and speak to God in our prayers, asking Him what He wants us to be doing? How does He want us—as an individual—to serve Him while we wait for His return? If we’re doing this every day we can be sure that we have taken the first step in getting ready for Jesus. Now, with our first step under our belt, we are on to the second, and this is the determination to apologise for sleeping in, and so the Church encourages us—in both Advent and Lent—to make a confession. Finally, having got into the habit of daily prayer, and having confessed your sins to God, why not find a way to love your neighbour as God asks. It could be volunteering here at church or with a local charity; it could be inviting a lonely person for a Christmas meal; or taking a hot drink to a homeless person on the street. But—whatever it is—start doing something to show God’s love to those who need it most. These three simple steps would not only make you ready for Jesus’ return, but might help someone else be that little bit more ready too!

This morning we have heard once again, of the coming of Christ. Unlike His first coming as a baby, this time Jesus will come as our king and our judge and He will be seen by everyone. Today the Church sounds the alarm, and causes us to wake from sleep and so be ready for that day. Let us make sure that we are! Amen. (from Fr Mike).