First Sunday of Advent

In one of the Peanuts comic strips, Linus says to Sally Brown, “I believe the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch on Halloween night, and flies through the air bringing with him toys for all the children in the world. That’s what I believe. What do you think?” Sally Brown looks straight into his eyes for a while and then says, “I think you have very nice eyes and you are completely out of your mind.” 

Nonetheless, that night Linus and Charlie Brown hurry down to the pumpkin patch to keep watch. Suddenly, a large dark head rises in the moonlight and Linus exclaims, “There he is! It’s the Great Pumpkin rising up out of the patch!”  As the large dark head becomes clearer they see the long floppy ears of Snoopy with his Mona Lisa grin. In spite of this disappointment Linus and Charlie Brown naively continue believing, and each Halloween they keep watch for the coming of the Great Pumpkin.

After almost two thousand years we Christians continue to believe the Son of Man will come again. Are we out of our minds? Is it realistic to believe what the Lord tells us in the parable about the householder when he says: “If the master of the house knew at what hour the thief was coming, he would stay awake and not let his house be broken into? You also must be prepared…”? The people of Noah’s day were not prepared. They went on living normally, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. But they didn’t believe, so, they weren’t prepared. We believe the Lord will come, but are we prepared? Is there a breakdown between what we believe and the way we act?  To believe without acting is more blameworthy than for one who does not believe at all.   

So, at the beginning of Advent we are warned by St. Paul to “conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus.”  Does being prepared mean we must stop living normal lives like everyone else, sleeping and rising, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.  No, because the Lord says, “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.” Outwardly, their daily lives were quite the same. But inwardly, they were different. One was awake, the other was not. One was prepared, the other was not. To keep watch so that the thief cannot break into one’s house means to be pure of heart, “to put on the Lord Jesus.”  It is love for Christ and each other that makes us prepared. Here is a beautiful example of that kind of love in action.

One evening a nurse escorted a young man to the bedside of his elderly father who was dying. She said to the patient, “He is here, he has come at last.” The man was heavily sedated because of the pain from his cancer.  He could not see or think clearly. Anxiously, he reached out and wrapped his fingers around the boy’s hand. All through the night the young man sat at the bedside holding his hand, squeezing messages of encouragement, gently caressing and showing him love. At dawn the father died. The boy put the lifeless hand on the father’s chest while the nurse offered words of sympathy. Then the young man asked, “What is his name?” She looked at him with astonishment and said, “But isn’t he your father?” “No.” he replied. She said, “Then why didn’t you tell me?” He answered, “Because I saw that he needed his son, and his son wasn’t here. When I realized how much he was comforted by thinking I was his son, I stayed to do what his boy was not doing, to keep watch with him until the Lord’s coming.”  It is love like that, that prepares us for the Lord’s coming.