Sunday, December 1, 2013


   First Sunday of Advent   A 

What are you waiting for?

If I’d asked you that question on Thursday
you would have probably said you were waiting for
that delicious smelling turkey or pumpkin pie to emerge from the oven;
later in the day, it might have been for the big game to start.
If I’d asked you that question on Friday
you might have said that you were waiting for
the doors of the store to open and the sales to begin.
But I’m not asking you that question on Thursday or Friday;
I’m asking you in the first moments of this season of Advent.
Advent is a season of expectation and preparation.
What are you expecting?  What are you preparing for?
It’s a season of waiting.
What are you waiting for?

Now, this is the moment in the homily
when you’re waiting for me to tell you what you’re waiting for:
to explain the meaning of these four Sundays before Christmas
and why they should matter to you.
But I’m not going to let you off the hook that easily…

What are you waiting for?

You see, if I were to ask little children right now
what they are waiting for,
they’d have a ready answer for me: presents!
We’d hope they have higher motives for Advent,
but there’s no denying that their thinking on the topic is clear;
they have very specific expectations,
and they’re not at all afraid to speak up about them.
Pushed a little on the subject,
the more religiously savvy kids would tell us
that we’re waiting to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.
That may be a satisfactory enough answer for youngsters;
it’s not for us grown ups.
Is that really what you are waiting for?
A global string of—let’s face it—rather decadent celebrations,
during many of which the birthday boy
barely gets even an honorable mention?

What are you waiting for?

We can all agree that it would be pretty silly
to go out on Black Friday,
then stand in line for an hour or more,
only to get to the checkout counter
with nothing whatsoever in your cart.
It’s no different to begin this season of Advent
without having some sense of just what it is you’re waiting for.
And like preparing a wish-list for Santa,
it’s a very personal thing to do.
Oh, there are “standard” answers, for sure—
but this is really something you can only do for yourself.

Jesus warns us about being
like the people of Noah’s day who were surprised by the flood,
like the man left out alone in the field,
like the woman left behind grinding at the mill,
like the one whose house was plundered by the unexpected thief:
if we don’t know what we’re waiting for,
then there’s no way of knowing when it has arrived…
…and we’ll very likely be caught unawares, 
but maybe even miss out altogether.

What are you waiting for?

Take some time to answer that question
in these first hours of Advent:
to consider what, in fact, are the deepest longings of your heart
and what it would take to fulfill them.
Maybe you’re waiting for healing in a broken relationship.
Maybe you’re waiting for clarity in making a big decision.
Maybe you’re waiting for freedom from a persistent temptation.
We’re quite familiar with the story
of Christ’s first coming, long ago,
and the way the course of human history was changed forever;
where would you like to see him
come into your life, here and now,
and make a few changes there?
Whatever your desire,
roll this expectation over in your heart
and bring it before the Lord in prayer—
not just this once, but again and again.
Don’t let this season pass you by in a flurry
of jingle bells, eggnog, and shiny wrapping paper.
Stay awake!  Be prepared!
Know what it is that you’re waiting for!

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