Cycle A 1st Sunday of Advent

 Is. 2:1-5; Rom. 13:11-14; Mt. 24:37-44

Today, we are celebrating the First Sunday of Advent. No one really knows when Advent first began. However, in the late 400s, St. Gregory of Tours wrote in the History of the Franks that St. Perpetuus decreed a three-week fast from the time of the feast of St. Martin until Christmas. Whether this was a new custom being instated or an existing observance being enforced in 567 at the second Council of Yours, monks began to practice fasting on the first of December through Christmas day.

Today's First Reading from the Book of Isaiah was a prophecy of the incarnation of the Lord God through Jesus Christ. It says, "In days to come the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it." The reading continues, "Many peoples shall come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.'

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."

As we heard during today's Gospel Reading, "Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming." In the midst of violence, suffering, injustice, persecution, indifference, Jesus the messenger of peace, tells us to be vigilant.

The Scriptures offer many examples of individuals who became comfortable in the normalcy of life until a sudden twist interrupted their lives. What appears sudden can overwhelm the individual to the point of anger, bitterness, or depression. All of a sudden, doubts arise, and multiple questions whirl in their heads. Why did God allow that to happen to me? Where was God when this unexpected event hit? 

The first character was Noah. Although life was somewhat predictable for his first five hundred years, it did not remain predictable in his next one hundred. While he and his wife raised three sons, they had no clue what was going on behind the scenes in the mind of God as He saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth. 

Noah received from the Lord a message that interrupted his life, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh”.  Noah and his family were to build a huge boat that would spare them from deathly waters.

Soon the flood came, and just as God promised, “He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground”. In the middle of it all, Noah did not ever wonder if he and his family would survive. “But God remembered Noah”. 

Another character, Job, causes us tension as we seek to make sense of the sudden predictableness of his life. Job lost everything, including his health. 

The reality for all of us is that life, no matter how stable it may appear, is not something we ever control. Life will always take on sudden twists or become very unpredictable, and we will be forced to face the questions of whether God knows, cares, or is at work during the event.

The story of Esther appears to be a series of coincidences that deliver the Jews from certain death. However, God selected Esther for a particular purpose at a particular time in the history of His chosen people.

The biblical account of Joseph clearly demonstrates that God is at work even when life seems to be going wrong. Even today, it’s easy to wonder why God would allow calamity to happen or if He’s in control at all. Whether through uncontrollable circumstances or the pain of personal relationships, everyone has experienced unforeseen changes in life. This study helps believers navigate detours that may take you through trials, injustice, and even betrayal. You will be comforted and encouraged when you learn to rest in God’s redemptive plan and the hope found in God’s sovereign will.

Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.

In Ecclesiastes Solomon speaks of two analogies to describe the nature of unpredictable life.

Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.

Life is unpredictable and mysterious. Solomon says life is just like the wind. The wind operates sovereignly. Humankind cannot create or control it, for the wind is unseen and unknowable. We perceive its presence by its effects.

Likewise, we cannot understand how God forms bones in the womb. This is far beyond our comprehension, so we have to take this by faith. Yet, in doing so, we adhere to the most intelligent option available to us. It is clear that the creation of the human body couldn’t have happened by itself.

As we are entering into the season of Advent the Gospels reminds us to be prepared for the unpredictable. In History we meet many ordinary people who changed the course of history with their unexpected interventions.

We’ve all seen the powerful image of a man standing directly in front of a tank near Tiananmen Square in China, but he was never identified. The photo was taken on June 6, 1989, the day after China’s bloody crackdown on student protesters. Despite his anonymity, Tank Man has become an internationally recognized symbol of resistance to government oppression.

When account manager Todd Beamer and the other passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 realized their plane had been seized by terrorists, they worked quickly and courageously to reclaim control. Flight 93 crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, but the passengers’ brave resistance saved the nation from a great tragedy.

Advent reminds us that Jesus taught us to look forward. And it tells us to prepare to meet Our God. God has a plan for us, and when we give an unconditional “Yes” to that plan God will work through us ordinary men things that seem impossible to establish through human effort.