“’Tis the Season!” You may wonder why I’m just getting around to saying this inasmuch as our shopping malls have been displaying Christmas merchandise since Halloween, reminding us that it is the season for gift-giving.
When we worship during Advent, we are reminded of the reason for the season. Our custom of gift-giving originated in our attempt to emulate God who gives himself to us. But, it is easy to forget to put God on our gift lists. After all, isn't the One who has given us the one necessary gift worthy to receive a response from us? So, I’m going to concentrate on what I’m giving to God this year and I especially want to give God my undivided attention.
To say that I am giving God my undivided attention doesn’t mean that I am supposed to find a hermitage somewhere and leave this life behind. It means that in the midst of everyday activities I need to be alert to the One who is looking for me through those events and guiding my response to them.
Advent is about those long centuries of waiting for the promised Messiah. Advent is about the thrill of knowing that promise has been fulfilled. Advent is about the expectation that the Messiah will come again to take us unto himself. But mainly, Advent is about watching and waiting for his appearance in the present moment.
Jesus said, "Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come" (Mk. 13:33).
A tourist stepped into the beautifully kept garden of the Castle Asconti in northern Italy. He encountered the gardener and asked when the owner was last there. “Twelve years ago,” the gardener said. The tourist then observed, “But you keep the grounds as though your master was coming back tomorrow.” The gardener quickly replied, “Today, sir. Today.”
A Christian watches and works as though the Master will return this very day because he does. He greets us in the mystery of Word and Sacrament on Sunday morning and at the intersection of the highways we travel on Wednesday afternoon. In this sense, as in the ultimate sense, his coming into our lives is something to which we should look forward. That merits my undivided attention.
Collect for the First Sunday of Advent
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Very Rev'd Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church