Jesus said, “And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.”
from the Gospel according to St. Mark. (13:24-37)
Happy New Year! Too early you say? Maybe for your iPhone’s calendar, but not for the Church Year.
This is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of our Church Calendar year. The liturgical color has changed to Purple, and if you read some of the info out there about Advent, it says that the color represents the solemnity or somberness of the season. Some even say Advent is a “little Lent” and it should be a time of penitence and repentance.
The color of purple is also a color of royalty, nobility and wealth. Our bishops wear the color year round, and we treat them with more respect and deference because of their high calling.
Bp. Reed’s Advent customary says, while there is a theme of penitence, this is not a “little Lent.” While some of the service music has changed, like the exchange of the hymn “Lord have mercy upon us” has replaced the “Gloria in excelsis,” I tend to think of Advent as a rather joyful time of year. Notice that we do not banish the joyful word Alleluia during this season.
One of Charles Wesley’s hymns for the season has this line:
“Lo! He comes, with clouds descending, once for our salvation slain; thousand thousand saints attending swell the triumph of his train; Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ the Lord returns to reign.”
Another hymn I like starts with this line: “The King shall come when morning dawns” and ends with “Hail Christ the Lord! They people pray, come quickly, King of kings.”
And yet another hymn, one of which I have never sung in a service, starts with “Blest be the King whose coming is in the name of God!” It turns out it has the same tune as “All glory, laud and honor to thee redeemer King,” so don’t be surprised if you hear it next Sunday!
Given all this, it makes sense to me that the color of purple is in honor of the expected coming of our King.
Of course for most people, the Christmas season has begun, right? There is a house nearby that has a lot of inflatable decorations and with such traditional symbols of Christmas, like a snowman, Santa in his sleigh, and snoopy on top of his house. Ha!
And of course, the much beloved traditional Christmas music is playing everywhere, and my friend Laura at United Supermarket says it always drives her staff to the edge!
We Anglicans like to decorate of course, and while I resisted the temptation to put up the tree and the lights for many years, I now think of them as Advent decorations, many of which have little to do with Jesus, but more with the time of year. So, we have a tree in the parish hall, nicely decorated and lit up, and we have an Advent Wreath, which has a lot in common with the “Tree.”
And today after mass we will “Hang the Greens” in the church. That is always fun! The greens remind us that even when it’s dark and cold outside, on the inside, we have everlasting life.
Getting back to the theme of the season, this is a time when we prepare for the advent of our King. We are anticipating the celebration of his birth, and we are anticipating his second advent, when he will reign as King of kings.
As we have heard many times, we don’t know when that will be. Many have tried to predict a date and time, and all have failed. The second advent of Jesus cannot be measured in chronological time (from the Greek Χρόνος,) but in God’s High Time (Greek: καιρός,) or the fullness of time, as is mentioned in our Eucharistic Prayer:
“In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ,”
Jesus comes to us at unexpected times even now. Sometimes he comes to us in the still small voice. Sometimes he comes to us in the person of someone who is in need. Sometimes he comes to us in moments of great joy. Always, he comes to us in his time.
He comes to us each Sunday in his body and blood, feeding us for eternal life. He comes to us in the Holy Scriptures, the great love story of God and his people.
He comes to us when our hearts and minds are ready to receive him. All too often, our hearts and minds are preoccupied with our worldly problems. We are always concerned with the wellbeing of our families. We are worried about our finances, or the rumors of war, or perhaps with the test we have to take at school.
While all of these things are important, they easily crowd out thoughts about things eternal, thoughts about the reign of Christ in our lives.
This is why we celebrate Advent. It’s a time that reminds us to put aside our earthly concerns, and focus on preparing our hearts and minds to receive Jesus our King.
Our King and Savior now draws near: Come let us adore him. Amen.