Look Up, Raise Your Head; Your Redemption is Drawing Near

Look Up, Raise Your Head; Your Redemption is Drawing Near

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But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life.” (Luke 21:34)

Dear friends in Christ, Christmas is just around the corner again. It is true that many do not celebrate Christmas. There are even some Christians that are against the celebration of Christmas, there are those who argue about the origin of the feast, the date of the celebration, the kind of activities which tend to be associated with Christmas, the fact that Jesus Christ did not mandate us to celebrate his birth, the fact that evil-minded people tend to take advantage of our happiness during this season and so on and so on.

Nevertheless, the fact is that whether anyone likes it or not, Christmas this year will not be cancelled. We are going to celebrate it but to make the best of our celebration, we must prepare very well for it. If you want this Christmas to be your best ever, start your preparations now. This is the whole essence of this four-week period before December 25th.

The truth is that some have started mundane preparations already such as the year-long contributions in meetings and associations, the buying of cows, bags of rice, the rearing of chickens, goats, rabbits, the shopping for new clothes and shoes, the repainting of their houses and hanging all sorts of decorations and lights.

These are mundane preparations that may help in our enjoyment of Christmas but without spiritual preparation, without actually focusing our thoughts on Christ, without reminding ourselves of the second coming of Christ, without repainting our hearts and ridding ourselves of sin, we are just wasting our time and money. To help us get the best of Christmas, the church offers us a season of deep spiritual preparation which is called Advent.

1. What is Advent?
The word Advent means “coming.” Who and what is coming? Our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, there are two types of “coming” that we celebrate at Advent, the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh (which is a commemoration of the Virgin birth of our Christ) and the second coming of Christ at the end of time. During the season of Advent, we think of the events leading up to the birth of Christ but we also remind ourselves that Christ will come again; that this whole world will soon end. This is why our readings today are laden with end-time (apocalyptic) imagery.

2. What are we Supposed to do During Advent?
Jesus answers this question in our Gospel passage today: “Take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

The purple vestment we wear during Advent speaks volumes in the sense that it reminds us of the season of Lent. Considering what Jesus says in today’s Gospel passage, we cannot but conclude that Advent is a just like lent – it is a time of:

a. Spiritual Vigilance against temptations, persecutions and attacks from the evil ones. Of course, this requires going for confession and being on guard lest you fall into temptation.

b. Abstinence from drunkenness (over-indulging the flesh; gluttony, immorality etc.) Take a look at the Advent candles. What do they say to you? This is a time to let your light shine not a time to disgrace Christ in the name of celebrating his birthday.

c. Prayerfulness. Advent is a time to pray more than ever before. If it is true that the evil ones tend to take advantage of this period of festivities to wreak havoc on people’s lives and property, then the best defense we have is PRAYER. Pray against road accidents, insecurity, kidnapping, armed robbery, inflation, e.t.c. If there is anything at all that makes you worry this period, pray about it. Devote more time to prayer.

3. What is the Ultimate Aim of Advent?
The whole essence of Advent in the words of Jeremiah in today’s first reading is R I G H T E O U S N E S S. Jeremiah says: “Behold the days are coming… at that time, I will cause a righteous Branch to spring from David and he shall execute justice and righteousness… And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”(Jeremiah 33:14-16)

To fully get Jeremiah’s message in our first reading, it will help to read the whole of Jeremiah chapter 33. In fact, in verses 7, 8, and 9 God speaks through Jeremiah saying: “I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first. I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth.”

This city shall be to me a name of joy! Do you know that there is a kind of joy that comes to us when we are able to conquer our flesh? This is the joy God wants us to have and this is why we must battle sin and pursue righteousness more than ever before during this Advent period. If we observe our Advent properly, our joy on Christmas day would not simply be about the fact that Jesus was born, our joy would be that we have been able to conquer certain bad habits and sinful behaviours in our lives.

St. Paul crowns everything up with a very powerful prayer in today’s second reading; a prayer that we are going to pray for ourselves now and throughout this Advent season: “May the Lord make (…me…) increase and abound in love to one another and to all men… so that He may establish (…my heart…) unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).

Let us pray: Lord Jesus at your second coming, whenever it may be, may you meet my heart in a state of purity and holiness. May I be among those to receive your commendation; not your condemnation. Amen

Bible Study: Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:4-14, 1st Thessalonians 3:12-4:2 and Luke 21:25-36).

Fr. Abu

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