Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent (Year A)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
In a certain second-grade class, the teacher wanted to gauge the ability of the kids to use common sense, so she asked, “who can tell me the first thing you must do in the morning after the night?” Just as she expected, there were many answers. Some mentioned things like brushing of teeth; some said taking a shower. There were other answers, like eating breakfast; one child was religious enough to say “praying!”
Unfortunately, none of the kids got what the teacher wanted, so she gave them a little time to think through. Suddenly Peter, who had been quiet all along, jumped up and shouted, “I got it. The first thing you do in the morning after the night is wake up!” Raising her thumb in agreement, the teacher exclaimed, “correct! You must wake up first before you do anything.”
The Advent Wake Up Call
The First Sunday of Advent comes with the most appropriate message, Wake up! In the Letter to the Romans captured in the Second Reading (Romans 13:11-14), St. Paul advised his audience in Rome that it is the hour to awake from sleep as the night is far gone and the day is at hand.
Looking closely, we can understand that St. Paul was not just referring to waking up from physical sleep but spiritual and moral sleep. According to the apostle, waking up from sleep would involve throwing off the works of darkness and putting on the armor of light, so it is more than responding to the rising alarm clock.
St. Paul further discloses that waking up involves proper conduct that discourages orgies, drunkenness, promiscuity, lust, rivalry, and jealousy—waking up consists of putting on Jesus Christ and not making allowances for the desires of the flesh.
In Gospel Reading (Matthew 24:37-44), we see our Lord Jesus Christ advising his hearers about his Second Coming, which is the central message of the Advent Season. Here he describes what keeps people in sleeping mode using the imagery of the people’s lifestyles during the time of Noah before the flood, which involved eating, drinking, and marriage.
These activities (eating, drinking, and marriage) are not evil in themselves; even marriage was instituted by God (Genesis 2:24). However, they become obstacles when they become masters over our lives, taking the place of God. During the time of Noah, the people were more concerned about these activities than God’s redemptive message, so they were not awake to prepare for the flood.
Wake Up and Prepare
Advent is the season of spiritual preparation as we anticipate the coming of our Lord Jesus in three dimensions. The first is his coming at Christmas, which is a commemoration of his first historic coming. Next is the anticipation of his Second Coming, also known as the Parousia, and his continual coming into our hearts through the Word and the Sacraments.
The liturgy of this First Sunday of Advent tells us that our preparation should be preceded by our readiness to wake up. As we established earlier with the story of the second-grade class, nothing can be accomplished until we wake up.
We need to wake up from the lives we are living now that seem real to us but are all shadows. The First Reading (Isaiah 2:1-5) anticipates this call to wake up when it tells us that after the mountain of the Lord’s house is exalted above others and nations drop their waring arsenals, everyone will walk in the light of the Lord.
There is an organic correlation between waking up and light. Light announces the day, just like darkness showcases night. Advent comes to us with light announcing the day and inviting us to begin our preparation for the coming of the Lord.
Moving Forward: Adopting the Three Steps to Wake Up
Just imagine how you wake up in the morning on a typical day. If you recall, there are three significant actions: opening the eyes, sitting up, and stepping out. These three steps must be followed to be fully awake. Our reflection will adopt these steps to demonstrate how we can wake up as this Advent Season opens.
Open your eyes: Opening the eyes here is not supposed to be mere action of the eye reacting to a physical light source. Recall that Elisha prayed that God opens the eyes of Gehazi to see beyond the physical, and he saw how they were surrounded by a heavenly army greater than the Arameans (2 Kings 6:17).
This is the time we need to open our eyes to see beyond the fleeting things around us and appreciate the deeper realities that would give us access to God. Moreso, we need God’s light to see. Psalm (36:9) tells us that God is the fountain of life, and in his light, we see light.
Sitting up: Sitting up is a learning posture. Recall that Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening while Martha was going about with the chores (Luke 10:38-42). This is a time for us to sit on the Word of God and be attentive enough to learn what God wants from us. Therefore, we are expected to pay attention to the season’s messages.
Stepping out: When we have been illuminated by the light of God falling upon our eyes, and when we have sat on the Word of God enough to learn, we can step out to action. Stepping out entails that the Advent message should be captured in our words and actions as evidence of those who have woken up. We should become testaments of the Advent season in our society. People in Antioch could identify the followers of Jesus Christ and call them Christians because they stepped out (Acts 11:26).
As we step into the Advent Season, let us try our best to stay awake spiritually and morally to fulfill our obligations as we prepare our hearts for the Lord.
God bless you.