The Christian mystery of the Incarnation can never be contemplated without a quick glance forward to his Second Coming, at which Jesus will judge the “quick and the dead.” This helps push back a little more firmly against the culture for the nurture and cultivation of those graces of patience, selflessness, mercy, which are frequently threatened by the consumer superficiality that marks our current season. The secularization of Christmas relentlessly plays to the weakness of our being, and would pluck from us the fruit of the spirit.
Advent piety perceives that it is impossible to celebrate the Lord’s birth except in an atmosphere of sobriety and joyous simplicity and of concern for the poor and marginalized. The expectation of the Lord’s birth makes us sensitive to the value of life and the duties to respect and defend it.
Advent piety intuitively understands that it is not possible to celebrate coherently the birth of him “who saves his people from their sins” without some effort to overcome sin in one’s own life, while waiting vigilantly for Him who will return at the end of time.
The theme of the second Sunday in Advent is the coming of Jesus, not just in his nativity, but also in his return at the end of history. Between these two comings, God has come to his people in other surprising ways: in the triumphal entry, the visitation of judgment in a.d. 70, to name two. In this homily Fr. John discusses the certainty of God’s word, and how we must “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” the holy scriptures that provide comfort and hope to us in the present day. This homily was offered on Advent 2, 2014.
The piety of Advent is shaped by the realization that the world
waited a very long time for the Messiah. The first thing we learn therefore is patience. Christian faith is characterized by what is, for Western Christians, a maddening requirement that we slow down and wait on the Lord.
The piety of Advent is also shaped by the fact that when Messiah came, it was first to the lowly, the marginalized, the unimportant. A poor Galilean girl, her hardworking husband, shepherds and the like. Walking with the Lord should put us into meaningful contact with the same kind of people. This is the heart of God.
The piety of Advent thus gives us a motivation and a means to “hit back” against the grossly commercialized and indulgent habits of secular “pieties” of the sacred season. It really is hard to overstate the distraction that mass advertising is to the true peace and comfort this season is intended to cultivate.
Feeling stressed at Christmas? You didn’t get the right gift yet? Does your gift have to be ordered on the internet now in order to get here on time? Is this complicating your life? You’re probably missing the whole point.