Sunday, December 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

1st Sunday of Advent C
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
2 December 2012
Daily Readings

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The countdown on New Year's Eve.  Mario's 2008 miracle falling out of the air.  A critical exam about to start, a project deadline bearing down on you.  The powerball drawing.  That first kiss.  The birth of a baby. All these human moments, and many more, are filled with anticipation and excitement.  Such is the spiritual attitude of Advent. The countdown is over.  The new year is here.  Happy New Year!

A new year is always fun because of the feeling that through vigilance and resolution, the past no longer determines the future.  Of course, things are only really new if something has fundamentally changed, only if something substantial is happening.  New Year's is just a party that like everything in life, quickly fades, unless we are doing more than playing make-believe.

We are challenged not to turn the 1st Sunday of Advent then, into a make-believe New Year's Eve.  The Church's challenge comes to us from Luke's apocalypse, tonight's Gospel.  Jesus offers through his telling of the apocalypse what deep down, each one of us wants, an unveiling of how we can escape getting older and older with the world, until we fade away, and a chance through the Lord's coming to get younger and newer.

Yet Jesus tells us rightly that we are not prepared for what we want.  Indeed, all of us would die of fright if the world as we knew it crumbled.  We are prepared not for new things, but for holding on tightly to old controls and securities.  Our spiritual drunkenness and material attachments cause us to fear what we most want.  We fear the coming of the Son of Man, who brings the only thing that does not pass away - newness of life.

If you plotted the liturgical year on  the face of a clock, our first Sunday of Advent would happen not when most New Year's celebrations happen, not at midnight, but at about 9 o'clock, by my estimate.  We've held onto the light of last Easter's celebration as long as we could, and that light was not in vain and has not passed away.  Yet as the order of our redemption mirrors the order of nature, now is the time for us to stop looking at the light from yesterday, and to start looking for the light of tomorrow.  In Advent we are to begin looking east to the new Easter light of 2013.

You heard me right, and no, I haven't gone insane, at least I don't think I have.  Advent anticipates Easter.  It isn't enough to remind everyone to quit celebrating Christmas too early.  No, Advent begins a long night of vigil that will continue through next Lent to Easter morning.  Christmas will be a stop on the long night's journey, a celebration of a critical moment.  Christmas happens at midnight of our new year, when the light that is powerful enough to scatter every darkness begins to glimmer at the darkest hour of the darkest night.

Just at the time, 9 o'clock, when many people are reaching for a beer and the TV remote, thinking the most important part of the day is over, it is then, it is now, that Christians are called to become more vigilant.  Christians delight in the God who plans small surprises that come when many people are least expecting them.  Just as scientists look to smaller and smaller particles to help unlock the mysteries of the universe, so Christians look for small beginnings that change the world in radical ways.  We begin Advent by remembering that only a few people made it to the manger, while the rest of the world was asleep.  Even fewer made it to the empty tomb.  Whether or not anyone was there, these two events changed the cosmos more than the Big Bang ever could.

The same incarnation and paschal mystery of Jesus are fully present to the few of us who have come here tonight.  Who among us tonight might dare to let the old pass away, and be ready to recognize the Lord's coming in the hidden surprise that is the Holy Eucharist.  Come, Lord Jesus.  Come.

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