Sunday, November 27, 2016

If We're Not Paying Attention, We'll Miss the Boat!

Advent 1 Sun Yr A/2016
Ss. Peter & Paul/Danville


The message of Advent is one we often overlook; it’s a simple message, though not always easy to live.  The Advent readings in this liturgical year tell the story quite well – we’ll be telling that story together here throughout Advent.  It goes something like this:  If we’re not paying attention we’ll miss the boat.  So get ready!  Because Jesus is coming – but don’t be afraid.  Can you say that with me?  I want to get that story lodged in our hearts and minds together as a family of faith as we prepare ourselves for Christmas. One more time – say it with me – If we’re not paying attention we’ll miss the boat.  So get ready!  Because Jesus is coming – but don’t be afraid.  There’s one last punchline in the story – the most important part of a story is always the ending, isn’t it?  But you’ll have to wait until Christmas for that.  If we’re not paying attention we’ll miss the boat.  So get ready!  Because Jesus is coming – but don’t be afraid.

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Advent is one of my favorite seasons because it teaches us so much about how to live every season of the Christian life.  Think about it.  Advent is jammed right in-between our celebration of everything that Jesus accomplished – the amazing celebration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe – where we see visions of the world to come and acknowledge that the love of Jesus is powerful enough to redeem us all (if we’ll let Him). Advent is sandwiched between that celebration, and the great feasts of Christmas which mark the coming of the Savior that makes all that happen.  Just like our family of faith thousands of years ago before Bethlehem were waiting for their salvation to dawn upon them, our family of faith today thousands of years later waits for the final coming of Christ when all His work will be perfectly realized in us and in our world.

Every day of our life is sandwiched between acknowledging the salvation Christ has won and realizing that salvation in our lives, in our times, and in our world – just like Advent.  And how do we live well in that space of longing?  Well – it’s simple really – the message of Advent:  If we’re not paying attention we’ll miss the boat.  So get ready!  Because Jesus is coming – but don’t be afraid.

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Our Advent journey – our practice for living every day of the Christian life – our preparations to welcome Jesus at Christmas all starts here:  If we’re not paying attention, we’ll miss the boat.  Jesus said so Himself in today’s Gospel: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man…They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage…They didn’t know [anything important was happening – that God was trying to save them; they didn’t know] until the flood came and carried them all away.  So it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be with us this Christmas – so it will be with us at the end of our lives – so it will be with us when Jesus comes for us…  They weren’t paying attention, and they missed the boat.  If we’re not paying attention, we’ll miss it, too.  Christmas…the coming of Jesus into our lives…Jesus saving us, helping us grow in holiness.  If we’re not paying attention, we’ll miss it!

Eating and drinking – marrying and giving in marriage; the things that distracted them weren’t bad things.  We eat and drink to survive.  God created marriage.  It isn’t always bad things that distract us – but it doesn’t matter.  If we’re not paying attention, even if we’re focused on seemingly good things, if we’re not looking for Jesus, preparing intentionally for His arrival, we’ll miss Him when He comes, and get swept away and swallowed up.  

Friends, it’s just as easy to miss Jesus because we’re distracted with sending Christmas greetings, shopping for, and even serving the poor and less fortunate.  It’s not only about how we’re spending our time – it’s about what has our attention, what we notice, and whether or not we make room in our hearts and minds to look toward heaven and pay attention to God and what He’s up to…  

So tell me – what’s on your mind as we turn this corner toward preparing for Christmas.  Cards, shopping, events, parties, and decorating?  There’s lots of good and joy and love that can be shared when we do those things well – but even then, if we’re not paying attention to Jesus – setting aside time to make Him a part of our gift giving and merry making – if we’re not paying attention we’ll miss Him…and that has disastrous and eternal consequences.  One of the things I’ve come to love about our parish is how much we focus on serving those around us.  Soups On Us, the Amen Corner, our Prison Ministry, ringing the Salvation Army Bell, participating in the Angel gift giving program, knitting prayer shawls.  And my guess is we ramp all these things us very nicely as we move toward Christmas.  There’s lots of Christian service and loving our neighbor that can take place if we do these things well – and I’m glad we’re doing them!  But friends, if we’re not careful, we can get so busy doing all this good that we forget to do it for Jesus and in His name; we can get so busy doing all this good that we lose any sense or idea of what Jesus Himself is actually doing in our lives – and if we do that, we’ll miss Him when He comes – and that has disastrous and eternal consequences.

It all starts here and now, the holy season of preparation for the coming of the Lord.  And it doesn’t matter how good or wholesome or holy our busy-ness is, if our busy-ness keeps us so distracted that we’re not paying attention, we’ll miss Jesus.  And a lifetime lived, doing even in the best of works, that misses the coming of Jesus into our lives will swallow us, and carry us away forever like Noah’s flood.

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If we’re not paying attention, we’ll miss the boat.  And we don’t want to do that.  So what does that mean for our Advent this year?  Well – the answer is simple: pay attention.  Why not say a little prayer before you do anything at all related to the coming holiday?  Sitting down to write Christmas cards: “Jesus, help me notice you coming into my life.”  Going shopping: “Jesus, help me see you in those I meet today – help me see you in those I’m shopping for.”  Decorating your home: “Jesus, help me make sure we’re creating a real place for you among these lights and trees and bows.”  Sometimes taking a moment just to orient our minds and pray can help us pay attention.

And what about doing just one simple thing specifically for the purpose of paying better attention to Jesus during the Advent season? What if we took the time to come to confession after really examining our consciences to see where Jesus is alive and working in our lives.  What if we made a commitment to come to at least one daily Mass each week during this Advent season? That might give us another moment in all the hustle and bustle to pay attention to Jesus and how He’s coming more completely into our lives.  How about taking the time to actually read and pray with our little Advent booklets every day, asking ourselves each day where we’re seeing and encountering Jesus in our lives.  Those are the Christmas preparations we most need to make…

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The story of Advent is a simple story – If we’re not paying attention, we’ll miss the boat.  So get ready!  Because Jesus is coming.  But don’t be afraid…  Let’s get a good start, friends, and make sure we’re paying attention to Jesus who is coming to us.