Homily preached by Frank Tuchols, Pastoral Associate
St. Paul’s on the Green, Norwalk, CT
The First Sunday of Advent – December 2, 2012
Happy New Year ! Happy Church New Year that is. Today’s Advent celebration begins a new church year. And with a new church year we begin to read from a different gospel. This year the gospel of St Luke.
Luke’s gospel is a favorite of mine. I believe we can relate well to this gospel account as members of the Christian community of the 21st century. Luke wrote his account with the belief that the end of the world and Jesus’ return in glory was not right around the corner. The early community that lived after Jesus believed he would return soon. Even during their lifetime. He would relieve them of the persecution they were experiencing as Jesus‘ followers as well as their own personal sufferings and difficulties.
Luke was a companion of St Paul. He traveled with him on his missionary journeys throughout the Mediterranean world even as far as Rome. This gave Luke a more expansive vision of the mission of preaching about Jesus and his message. In this way he, along with Paul, came to the understanding that Jesus return was not immanent. So Luke’s gospel was written with emphasis on what needed to be accomplished in this time between Jesus’ first and final coming and what needed to be accomplished to bring the Kingdom that Jesus preached about to its completion.
What I believe we can relate to is that we are here, centuries later, continuing to wait for Jesus’ final return. And our waiting has not been passive but rather active waiting; cooperating with Jesus in bringing his kingdom among us. In the liturgical year to come as we read the Gospel of Luke we will be able to review our work of bringing Jesus’ Kingdom to completion. And not just reviewing but recommitting ourselves to making the Kingdom come.
Today’s gospel lesson from Luke are the final words of Jesus at the end of his public ministry. After these words that we heard today Jesus went on to his passion, death and resurrection. So we begin this year with Jesus final public words to his disciples.
What stands out to me are his exhortations to “Be on guard” and “Be alert”. A call to vigilance. Vigilance for opportunities that will make his Kingdom come.
Advent has popularly been seen as preparation for Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the Incarnation. I believe that the Advent message stands on its own apart from Christmas preparation with the persistent message of vigilance, vigilance in looking for ways and opportunities to participate in the coming of the Kingdom.
Maybe an important reminder of this is that Advent is always celebrated in these days of the year when there is the least amount of daylight. We need to be vigilant so we don’t stumble in the dark. Increased light may help. Maybe our vigilance then can include ways of metaphorically bringing some increased light into the lives of others. Maybe a visit to someone shut in, a phone call to someone home alone or just the brightness of a smile. Any way in which we can enlighten our world and contribute to the kingdom coming among us.
So we pray today that Luke’s gospel, that we begin to proclaim today might bring us to a fuller understanding of Jesus’ Kingdom among us and that this Advent time may motivate us to be more vigilant, vigilant of ways in which we can enlighten our world.