Home » Gospel Encouragement – 28th November 2021 – 1st Sunday of Advent

Gospel Encouragement – 28th November 2021 – 1st Sunday of Advent

Dear sisters and brothers,

Today the first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. In the increasingly secularised culture in which we live there is a danger that we might let the season of Advent pass us by. Indeed, as I watch television of an evening, I can’t help but notice how Christmas adverts seem to get earlier and earlier. In our town centre’s Christmas lights are already up, Christmas music is already playing on the radio, Christmas films are on TV and Christmas food is already in the fridge (well in the presbytery at least.)

The word Advent means coming, and indeed the Lord’s coming is near at hand. But we are not called to passively wait for the Lord’s coming as if waiting for a bus to arrive. We are called to actively wait for the Lord, in much the same way as a waiter in a restaurant carefully observes the needs of the patrons in his care and serves them well. So too, we should seek to serve those around us and also to serve Christ and his Church. It is not just that the Lord is coming to us, but also that we are journeying to the Lord and so we are called to respond in faith.

In our daily lives I am sure we have all experienced having little time for the Lord and also little time for ourselves. We can end by being so absorbed in ‘doing’. It is often the case that activities absorb us and take up our time, and that we allow multiple interests to monopolize our attention. We also devote a lot of time to entertainment and to various kinds of amusement. At times we get carried away, especially at this time of year as we prepare for Christmas and the big day. But Advent, this powerful liturgical season that we are beginning today invites us to pause in silence and reflect. Advent is a time for us to experience the presence of God as he breaks through into our mundane lives. To feel the attention God gives us, the attention that is so often lacking in the ordinary mundanity of our daily lives. We should consider the whole of our life as a visit from God, as an Advent.

How can we allow the Lord to become closer to us this Advent? Well, if I may I have a few suggestions. These suggestions are not just for you, they are for me also. Advent like Lent is a penitential season, we wear the sombre purple vestments, the gloria as you may have noticed is not sung and there are no flowers adorning the sanctuary. Advent at its heart is a season of preparation and detachment from the things of this world, from those things that hold us back and drag us away from our salvation and prevent us from welcoming the Christ child into our lives.

In Advent we should abstain from pleasure for example some food, or some activity such as social media, playing video games etc. Or maybe we can commit a little more time to prayer and spiritual reading. Perhaps we could not eat a meal or not eat between meals and offer this up as a sacrifice for the poor and the sick who during the Christmas season suffer greatly. We may also want to get involved in the parish giving tree initiative in support of the homeless charity NOAH.

In our preparations for Christmas, we may decide to delay putting up our lights and decorations so as to better understand that for us as Catholics Christmas does not truly begin until Christmas Day. Let us remember that Christ humbled himself by becoming man and being born in a stable. He grew up poor and in poverty. If through some form of penance, self-denial and delayed gratification we can unite ourselves ever more closely to his cross then we will be better prepared spiritually to receive the Christ Child in humble and joyful adoration on Christmas Day.

Now all these things that I have mentioned apply just as much to me. I love Christmas, I love the films like Home Alone and Elf. I love all the Christmas songs and, in many ways, I can imagine that I must drive my family mad because at Christmas time I become a big kid. But if we can offer a small sacrifice during this Advent season then we will be truly spiritually prepared to welcome the Christ Child into our hearts and into our lives at Christmas.

With every blessing,

Deacon Liam (and Fr Simon)