Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2, Luke 21:25-28,34-36.
When I was a seminarian, it was a tradition for seminarians to do house to house visitations.
This helps us to get in touch with the people, pray for them and listen to their problems. Sometimes, it is an easy avenue for the parish priest to understand and know more about whatever is happening in the parish.
It helps us also to visit the sick, the needy and the elderly Christians who can no longer attend church activities due to the nature of their conditions.
So, In one of the places I visited, a woman narrated to me how she used to go to morning masses and does not fail to receive communion. But now her sickness has kept her down for years.
When I saw that she was seriously eager to receive Jesus more, I promised her that I will let the parish priest know about this and surely he will come and give her holy communion often. Wow, she was very happy.
When I informed the parish priest, the parish priest did not hesitate. He told me to let the woman know that he is coming the following day. I did as He instructed. I have to let them know about the visit.
So, the following morning, I went to the family again on time to remind them of the visit. To my greatest surprise, the woman is already out waiting for the priest to come.
The family even did a thorough clean up. They also dressed her in her best attire and sprayed perfumes everywhere. It was like the coming of the king.
They even told me that they are cooking and that I should let the priest know that they have something for him. Everywhere was sparkling. I saw the joy and smiles that were exuberating from the face of the woman.
When I saw how prepared they were, I decided to go to the parish to inform the priest so as not to disappoint them. Also to my greatest surprise, before, I could walk out of the gate, behold the parish priest and the catechist. That parish priest, if he is reading this, will remember.
He is very zealous, very dedicated and always long to touch lives. I learnt a lot from Him. Immediately he entered the compound, oh my God, it was like a celebration.
The woman began to sing and express her joy of meeting Jesus again. When She received the Holy Communion, her joy knew no bounds. It was like a celebration.
When I put my pen down to write about today’s reflection on advent, this experience immediately flashed in my mind. In this experience, I see a whole summary of what advent is.
First of all, in advent, we are preparing for the coming of Jesus. This encounter reminds me that as we prepare to celebrate Christmas, there is a solemn need to prepare. There is a need to do a thorough clean up. This will make the celebration wholesome.
Like this woman, the church is reminding her children to come back, prepare, and sanctify themselves. The church reminds her children that the day of the Lord’s coming is near. The day is coming, so like that woman, they should have a deep hunger to receive Jesus.
As the priest took me even unawares and came at the time I least expected, the day will take us unawares. Jesus will come when we least expect.
As the woman prepared on time, the church is calling us during this period to prepare on time. The day is coming when everything Jesus said will come to pass.
Advent is a time we prepare for the coming of Jesus. It is a season of hope and an hour of expectation.
Therefore, the church calls us to prepare joyfully for this glorious coming of Jesus Christ. He comes in history (At Christmas, his conception and birth), in mystery (through the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist), and in majesty (His second coming ).
In this first week of Advent, there is much emphasis on his second coming in majesty at the end of time. Therefore, We have to live like people who anticipate this glorious event.
Secondly, we have to prepare ourselves for Him to live in our hearts. The joy would be complete when Jesus comes and dwells in a clean place. So, this is a time of expectation, preparation, a time of sacrifice, a time of fasting and prayer and a time of hope.
We are preparing for Jesus’ coming because like the priest, in this narrative, Jesus does not fail in his promise. He cares for us, He loves us and the day is coming when His promises must be fulfilled.
The day is coming when He redeems us again. The day is coming when He will come and wipe our tears away. Also, the day is coming, when He will judge the world of their deeds. This is the reason we have to prepare.
Etymological and Historical Excursus.
The word advent is from the Latin word adventus which means “coming” It translates the Greek word parousia.
It was noted that the practice of advent began around the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul. It was a time when newly converted Christians were prepared for the reception of their baptism at the feast of Epiphany.
During this time, these Christians will spend 40 days in penance, sacrifices and prayers for this celebration.
They counted it then as a great joy to be counted among the members of the Christian fold. So, there was great preparation that accompanies it. Then, by the 6th century, Christians deemed it pertinent to attach this practice in preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Then in the middle ages, the church deemed it pertinent to link this practice to the advent of Jesus at Christmas.
This season lasts only for four weeks or four Sundays before Christmas. It always ends on the 24th of December before the celebration of Christmas.
During Advent, the priests wear purple or violet. Purple denotes mortification, sorrow etc, therefore, the season of advent is a season of sacrifice, penance, prayers etc in preparation for the coming of Jesus.
The Day is coming When He Fulfills His Promise.
The first reading of today is from Chapter thirty-three of Jeremiah. This chapter is the last chapter of the Book of Consolation ( 30-33).
These three chapters offer hope to the people. These chapters promise redemption and restoration to Israel and Judah.
At this time, the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, are already advancing to besiege Jerusalem.
So, these promises were given to them when the Babylonians were already attacking Jerusalem. Many people were afraid. The prophet Jeremiah himself is imprisoned by King Zedekiah (33:1).
Then, amid this catastrophe, Jeremiah speaks words of promise and the restoration of the people.
In verse 10, before today’s readings, Jeremiah prophesies that there will come a time in the land of Judah when “there shall once more be heard the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride” (33:10-11).
Then in today’s first reading, Jeremiah’s words of hope continue that the day is coming when God is going to fulfil the promise He made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah.
Despite the problem that is besieging the people, during this time, A righteous Branch will sprout from the line of David. And in those days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell in confidence.
Therefore according to Jeremiah, the coming of this branch from the line of David will restore the people. He will bring joy, healing and salvation to the people.
The Advent of The Righteous Branch.
One can then ask, who is this righteous branch that Jeremiah is talking about? To answer this question, we have to note that for over four hundred years, the descendants of David occupied the Davidic throne.
Earlier, God promises that this is how it will be ( 2 Samuel 7: Psalms 89). But later we know that the Babylonians still came and destroyed the city, burnt the beautiful temple of Jerusalem, set the country ablaze and took most of the costly vessels from the temple.
They also took the people to exile. This was what led to Psalm 137 “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion”. The people cried when the pagans asked them to sing one of Zion’s songs. And they asked, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
So, it was as if God’s promise of keeping the kingdom has ended. The Babylonian exile experience ended the Davidic dynasty and it was as if God gave them a fake promise of keeping the Kingdom forever.
So, the righteous branch that Jeremiah promises hence is Someone more than just an ordinary person. It is an assurance of the coming of Someone who is different, who is good, honest, righteous, and just will still spring from this shoot. And when He comes, He will save the people.
We know that historically, the Davidic lineage did not return to the throne again after the exilic experience.
Therefore, the prophecy about this Righteous Branch that will come for David is speaking about the Messiah and not an ordinary king.
Remember that in Luke 2:31-33, the angel announces to Mary that She will conceive and bear a son. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” Then the angel says that He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end!
So the advent of the Messiah will bring restoration, freedom, hope, salvation and joy to the people again.
Therefore, despite the crisis of the moments, the problems that we undergo, and the persecutions, the day is coming when our vindication will come. The day is coming when our victory will be given. It may look gloomy now but the hour and day are coming when God will wipe our tears away.
Therefore, the church calls us to open our hearts, repent from our pasts and welcome Jesus into our lives, homes and families.
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let us also remember that our souls also need attention.
How to Prepare for the Coming of Jesus Christ.
In the readings of today, we can glean some points on how we can prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus. This involves his coming in majesty, Christmas and total indwelling through the sacraments. They are:
1. Hold Your Head High In Faith.
In the gospel of today, Jesus talks about His second coming in majesty. He says that when the day comes, it shall be accompanied with signs in the sun and moon and star.
Then on earth, there will be agony among the nations in agony, men dying of fear, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; because the powers of heaven will be shaken.
Then when these are happening, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Then Jesus tells His disciples that when these things begin to take place, they should stand erect. He says “hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand”.
This particular text was written by Luke to the Christians at that time who were undergoing persecutions and tribulations.
The persecution was so violent that many of them began to lose hope in the Lord’s second coming. So Luke writes to them to remind them of what Jesus says. Jesus tells them that when they see things happening, they should stand erect and hold their heads high for their liberation is at hand.
In essence, amid this agony, the son of man would appear in glory to deliver them from agony. So, what they need in this time is to be steadfast.
So, in this season of advent, we have to remain steadfast despite whatever we may pass through. Hoping that one day, the time of liberation will come. So, instead of losing faith, let us remain strong in faith.
2. Be Vigilant.
In the gospel, Jesus tells His disciples to be watchful otherwise that day will take them as a trap. The day is coming When Jesus will come back again. Jesus tells them that the only way to survive the end is to be awake at all times.
This calls for preparation. Like the introductory story of the sick woman in this reflection, we have to be ready and prepare thoroughly to receive Jesus.
We are not sure of his second coming but we are sure that one day, our lives will expire. We are certain that we must leave the world one day. The day, hour, how, when and where, we do not know.
Therefore, we do not live in this world as if we are owners, we are only living by divine privilege.
3. Pray at All time.
In the gospel, Jesus asks His disciples to stay awake, and pray at all times for the strength to survive what is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’
Here, Jesus reveals that it is through prayer that we can draw our spiritual strength to withstand the horrors of the end time.
It is also through our communion with God, that we can withstand the fear and agony of our end.
When we are in a good relationship with God before our death, there is nothing to fear. Because being in total communion with God, is an assurance that we are already in safe hands. We have to pray always and remain close to God.
Therefore, as the day is coming when we do not expect, let us not forget to remain in close communion with our creator.
4. Do not Be Carried Away by Pleasure.
In the gospel, Jesus asks his disciples to be watchful so that they will not be carried away by the pleasure and cares of this world. Therefore, as we make an effort to take care of our lives, homes, families, do not forget to keep the soul clean.
As you make an effort to do everything for people you love, do not forget that the love of God should supersede. Let us not be carried away by the things we see now. Everything will still come to an end.
5. Live the Way God wants.
In the second reading of today, Paul writes to the Thessalonians to make more and more progress in the kind of life that they are to live, which is to live the life that God wants.
Therefore, we have to seek holiness. We have to seek the love of God and love of one another and be close to God.
We do not live our lives anyhow. The way we have to live should be the way God wants us to live. He wants us to live in peace.
God wants us to live in love and unity. He wants us to have mercy and forgive our offenders. He wants us to change and repent. As the day is coming, let us also seek to live the way He wants.
1. First of all, if you are passing through problems, difficulties, persecutions and troubles of life. If people have lost hope and think you are nothing, the day is coming when your vindication shall come. Do not lose hope in God.
Do not allow circumstances to dictate the way we have to worship God.
If your prayer seems not to be answered, the day is coming when that prayer will be answered. The day is coming when the people who think that you are nothing, will understand that you are something.
Also, the day is coming when the people that have forsaken you will see the light in you. The day is coming when the Lord will remember you again. Therefore as Jesus said in the gospel, let us keep our head high and be steadfast.
2. In this season of advent, we have to be always at prayers like people who are eager and hungry to encounter the Lord.
In the gospel, Jesus says that we have to stay awake. Therefore, this calls for a time of prayers, a time of total renewal and a time when we have to think deeply about the type of life we have been living.
What is that thing that is separating us from God, this is the time to put that to the end. What is that thing that makes you lose faith easily, this is the time to say goodbye to them. Who is that person that you have been enmity with, make peace with the person in this period.
This is not a time to bear grudges. It is not a time to look for sins to commit. This is a time of change and a time of coming back to God.
3. In the gospel, Jesus tells the disciples to look up and lift their heads when the time comes.
In essence, Jesus tells them to put on a cheerful countenance, and look upwards. Invariably, Jesus is showing them where their help comes in moments of tribulation.
Our help comes from the lord. Therefore in moments of problems and difficulties, we have to keep faith and look up to Him for our salvation and deliverance.
Jesus does not tell us to look elsewhere, He does not tell us to seek for people that will prophesy who is doing or that to us. Jesus does not tell us to go magical.
In essence, Jesus does not tell us to seek evil and demonic power that will give us fast answers. He says that amid this great agony, that means that agony must surely come, but when it comes, we should not lose hope. We have to look up and seek His grace. Salvation comes from God and not from anyone.
4. Like Jeremiah speaks words of hope when the people were hopeless, we are called to encourage and lift souls who have been affected by suffering, covid 19, death, loss of lives etc.
Our call is to uplift and not to destroy. Therefore let us use this advent season to restore souls to God and give them words of encouragement.
We are called to speak words of hope, faith, love and promise in a world often filled with fear, hatred, wickedness, killings, and hopelessness, uncertainty, even despair.
So advent is a season of change and hope. To a people devastated by the loss, Jeremiah’s prophecy offered hope: He says “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (33:14).
It means that All might seem lost, but God still is faithful. The house of David might be cut down, but God can bring life out of death. A branch will sprout. Let us also do the same to others.
5. Therefore, as the old liturgical season ends, we need to put an end to the former life and put on a new life that gives glory to God.
As the church prepares to walk on another year with the Lord, let us also walk with God in this new year of the church. This is a call to put an end to whatever that we do that is not giving glory to God. Then put on a new life In Jesus.
6. Today, the word of God reminds us of the coming of Jesus as our judge. He promises his love and salvation to those who are His disciples.
Therefore, the question today is “where do we belong? ” Are we truly His disciples or O yes members? Do we worship God only that people will see and praise us or does it come from our hearts? As the day is coming, how prepared are we to welcome Jesus?
7. Finally, to be vigilant is not just to open our eyes and wait for the coming of Jesus. It means a life of prayer, a life of faith, a life of hope and a life of holiness.
We have to guard ourselves against anything that will endanger our spiritual lives. We have to guard against leading souls astray.
This is a call to begin to live the way God wants us to live as Saint Paul says in the second reading.
We need to conduct ourselves in a way pleasing to God. Therefore, as we prepare for Christmas, do not forget to do a thorough clean up.
May God help us and give us the grace to prepare for his coming. May He never forsake you.