Please register to access this FREE content.
It’s the First Sunday of Advent, (Year A), and the Church is issuing its yearly wakeup call.
“Stay awake!” cries Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel. “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep,” says St. Paul in the Second Reading.
In Advent, there is actually a good reason to wake up: Christmas.
Jesus points to some scary reasons to stay awake, but the Church puts its wakeup call in the first Sunday of Advent because the best reason to wake up is Christmas.
The great feast coming in four weeks can fill our hearts with the light of God and the warmth of Christ’s presence. Unless we’re asleep. If we are asleep, Christmas is no longer a life-changing encounter with Christ, but an occasion to dull our spiritual sensitivity instead.
Jesus’ words point to several ways we are asleep in December. For one, we turn Christmas into a dream.
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man,” Jesus says. “In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark.”
A great accounting with God was coming, but his people focused on food, drink, and festivities instead. For us, God is coming in human form, and he demands real change. But we focus on cookies, gifts and decorations — building a dreamy Christmas that averts our eyes from the difficult aspects of Jesus’ coming.
Dream Christmas is the gauzy, sentimentalized Christmas that lasts from Black Friday to Christmas morning and is marked by holiday songs, commercials with jingle bells in them, wreaths, and parties.
Real Christmas starts on Dec. 25 and lasts until the Baptism of Jesus. It is a “recommitment” holiday, a time to recognize and accept Jesus Christ into our lives anew.
The more often we push away “Real Christmas,” the deeper the spell of “Dream Christmas” grows.
Jesus has called us to wake up many times before. He was calling when a coworker was confused about something important, and we kept things artificially pleasant instead. He was calling when we felt moved to contact a friend or family member, but we found a great excuse not to.
When you hit your snooze button, say sleep experts, you are thrust back into a deeper sleep state that makes it harder for you to wake up — and makes you less alert once you do.
By not waking up, we endanger not just ourselves, but those around us. In Noah’s day, “They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.” When Christ comes again, “Two men will be out in the field, one will be taken, one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, one will be left.”
At Christ’s return, we may leave others behind, or get left ourselves.
So, in Advent, the Church calls us to get up, get out of bed, and turn the lights on.
Or, as St. Paul puts it: “Throw off the works of darkness,” he says, and “put on the armor of light.”
Get out of the “drunkenness, promiscuity, and lust” in your own life — and the “rivalry and jealousy” in your interactions with others — and “put on Jesus Christ.”
In other words, “make no provision for the flesh” — try fasting from something in Advent, and “put on the armor of light” by praying and serving others.
What you will find is that fully embracing Real Christmas doesn’t spoil the fun of Dream Christmas. It deepens it.
“The mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills,” says the first reading. “All the nations shall stream toward it.”
In Dream Christmas, the best good will mankind has to offer is the priority. In Real Christmas, the best good will God has to offer is the priority. Dream Christmas is focused on shops; Real Christmas is focused on church. Dream Christmas is one thing for the rich and another for the poor. Real Christmas is the same for everybody.
Dream Christmas means happy feelings; Real Christmas has that also – plus a reform of life.
“For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples.,” says the reading.
It finishes with, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
Because, while committing to Dream Christmas changes the street decor, committing to Real Christmas changes the world.
This appeared at Aleteia.
Image: Optictopic, Flickr.