First Sunday of Advent

Mark 13: 33-37 – “Be on your guard! Be alert!”

The secular, commercial side of society likes to make Christmas an immediate thing. Barely have the ghosts and pumpkins of Halloween disappeared before Christmas trees and mince pies become a prime focus in shops, fusing gift shopping with light displays and continuous carols so that consumers can’t help but feel that the Christmas season has pounced upon them months before the 25th December.

While it is very easy to get caught up in this whirlwind of snowflakes and Santa-Clauses, Christians do, in fact, have the season of Advent is there to put space in between the rest of the year and Christmas. Advent is important because it reminds us that Christmas is important; so important that it is a mistake to try to leap into celebrating it without first examining our souls and honestly trying to see our faults and make amends. Advent is a time of preparation.

This is, for me, what stood out in my mind when I heard the words of Mark’s Gospel this weekend, calling all to stay awake, keep watch, be vigilant. Jesus is coming, and what is more, He is coming for you. That makes it sound sinister, which I did not intend; I of course mean He is coming because of you; because of His great love for you. He is coming, and He longs to make a home in your heart. Will you be ready to welcome Him?

One thing I struggle with is complacency. It is easier to tell myself that I am doing just fine as I am than to make the effort to look at myself honestly and accept that I don’t like all that I see in myself. It is still harder to make firm resolutions to aim for better, and to find practical ways of implementing these resolutions. It is far more comfortable to look at my life and my current efforts in a rosy perspective, and come to the convenient conclusion that I am a good enough person and that there’s no drastic need for change in my life.

The fact of the matter is that I am flawed, as we all are. Maybe I’m not the worst person to ever live, but what sort of a conclusion is that to draw? There is always more I can and should be doing in order to grow in my relationship with God. Is the ‘good enough’ of the world really good enough when it comes to He who has given me everything?

I do not mean that everyone should live their lives in a constant state of guilt – this is not helpful, and believing in Christ means living in hope, not despair, after all. Jesus came to the world so that we could be freed from our sins. Rather than to ignore our failings, or to become preoccupied with worrying about them, the important thing is to recognise the room for improvement within ourselves, to accept it, and to be always making that effort to move onwards, closer and closer in our lives to Jesus. Don’t be content to sit still, snug and dozing in your own complacency. Stand upright, be on your guard, and keep marching on. Use advent as a time to build a home in your heart for Jesus, so that He will find you ready and waiting when He is born to us on Christmas day.

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