We shouldn’t be surprised. The retailers have been reminding us that Xmas is coming since Halloween. But the season of Advent asks if we’re ready for Christ.
That’s what this Sunday’s readings remind us. They do that by making us look at humanity’s journey toward Christ, starting in the days of Isaiah. This Sunday’s first step in the Advent journey is a bit like the one Ebenezer Scrooge takes with the Spirits of Christmas past, present and future. But while Scrooge’s journey starts with his innocent past, our Advent Carol starts with humanity’s corruption—in the B.C. years.
“Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!,” Isaiah cries to God in our first reading. “Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.”
Then Christ comes and his mission in life and death is to save us from ourselves. In our gospel reading from Mark, Jesus acknowledges humanity’s depravity and seeks to steer us in a new direction.
“Watch, therefore,” he warns. “You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”
Christ’s life changed the hearts of many in his time, but his enemies ended up killing him anyway. It was his death and return to life that solidified his message of salvation in the hearts of his disciples, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s mission to prepare humanity for entry into His kingdom began the Advent tradition. Judging by our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, that tradition was taking root.
“I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift.”
But here we are in 2014 and as this Advent season starts, it seems that many are more conscious of the gifts on our Xmas list than the gift of Christmas. Are we ready for that second coming or have we reverted back to where our story began, when Isaiah was airing humanity’s dirty laundry in front of us, just as the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come did when he revealed to Scrooge the writing on his gravestone? Advent is our opportunity to wipe away that inscription and turn our gravestone into a monument with a new message: