First Sunday of Advent

Saint Margaret’s Anglican Church Budapest, Hungary The First Sunday of Advent Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36 Be on your guard... “Be on your guard,” our Lord advises us in today’s reading from near the end of the Gospel of Luke. Odd advice, we might be tempted to think, at the beginning of the Advent season, a time when we are more inclined to anticipate the joy of the coming Christmas season than to be on guard against unspecified perils. But then we remember with a jolt that we are indeed surrounded by perils and terrors of all sorts, from rampant pandemic to endemic poverty, from terrorism to tyranny. Not to mention migrants on the border of Poland and along the English Channel; troops on the border of Ukraine; and new strains of Virus discovered in Africa. Mindfulness is perhaps not such a bad idea after all these days. Be alert. Or as our Hungarian friends often tell us upon parting, Vigyázz magadra. Take care of yourself. After all, the world is full of surprises. The “distress among the nations” which our Lord knew in his day is with us still, though the names and boundaries of the nations in question may have changed a bit over the centuries. The “fear and foreboding” of which Jesus warns are as real and deep as ever. Indeed, “fear and foreboding” are palpable even during our sacred Advent season here in relatively safe and comfortable Central Europe. The machinery of evil may have changed over the centuries but the technology of the human heart remains the same as it ever was. And, in times such as these, it is easy to become -- if you will excuse the infelicitous expression -- gun-shy; to hunker down and love only those we already love; and trust only what we know for sure -- even when what we know for sure is alas manifestly not so. Yet it is just at times such as these that God so often insists upon challenging our deepest anxieties and prejudices, surprising us yet again with divine mercy and redemption. After all, it was in times just such as these that Christ was born of destitute and near-homeless parents forced to seek shelter for the night in a backyard village lean-to of all places; not exactly the palace of a prince or king. Yet, even in the midst of the world’s confusion and chaos, “the kingdom of God is

near,” as Jesus reassures us, as difficult as it may sometimes be to discern or feel its presence. Rather than hunker down, “Stand up,” commands our Lord, “and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” And that is also the message of today’s Gospel narrative. The surprise and wonder of Christ’s incarnation forces us to look again in our own age at the “signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars;” forces us again to consider anew the signs of God’s intimate and pervasive involvement in the world about us. And in our own lives. Advent then is that season when we learn to overcome our “fear and foreboding” and yet again open our hearts to others just as God has disclosed and demonstrated his love for us in Christ. Advent indeed requires a ce