1st Sunday of Advent - 2021

Each Sunday of Advent, a Saint John's School of Theology and Seminary community member will offer a reflection on the Sunday Gospel reading. We hope the work of our community is edifying for you as we prepare ourselves for Chirst's coming.

Reflection on Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 

In a consumerist society, November 1st marks the “unofficial” beginning to the holiday season. Stores are decked out for the holidays, and marketing emails target Christmas shoppers. By the end of November, we have experienced a month of Christmas commercials, yet the Christmas season has yet to truly begin.  

This year, November 28th marks the beginning of the Advent season. Advent is a time of joyful anticipation of Jesus’ coming. During Advent, the Church calls us to pray and remain vigilant. While our minds may be filled with Christmas lists and celebration, this reading on the first Sunday of Advent from the Gospel of Luke leaves us fearful because of its apocalyptic tone. The dismay of the nations, roaring of the sea, and death by fright are not exactly the images we have in mind when we sing of Christmas cheer. Why would we begin the Advent season with such horrific imagery? These images are presented as signs of Jesus’ second coming. These apocalyptic images may feel very real to us in our present context.  

Daily, we see news headlines about nations at war, natural disasters in forms of earthquakes, fires, and hurricanes, not to mention the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe. It may be most fitting that Jesus alludes to the anxieties of daily life. It can be challenging to not let fear and anxiety overwhelm us, as they have become incredibly familiar over the past year and a half. In the midst of these experiences, we are mindful of the story of hope that the Gospel contains. Jesus calls us to be vigilant and pray for strength. We are not called to sit idly to the side, but to stand tall, ready for what is to come. The Gospel promises that the Son of Man will come in a cloud with power and great glory. We hold on to our hope in Christ because it is through Christ that we have eternal life.  

It is Christ that is born and reborn in each of us at Christmas. Fear is a commonality in today’s world, yet we are continually called to find Christ amidst the chaos. It is in this searching that hope becomes possible. The mystery of God’s radical otherness is a sign of hope that we are called to proclaim. We are not meant to have all the answers, but if we continue to be disciples of compassion, solidarity, forgiveness, and acceptance, then we too may be agents of hope that the world so desperately needs. While remain vigilant, anticipating these signs, may each of us be a sign of hope for others as we joyfully await Christ’s birth.  

This piece was written by Maria Milazzo, Master of Divinity Candidate.