Read Is. 63:16-17,64:1,3-8, Ps. 80:2-3,15-16,18-19, 1 Cor. 1:3-9, Mark 13:33-37

“Watch, therefore -- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or cockcrow, or in the morning -- lest he comes suddenly and finds you asleep.” (Mark 13:35-36)

While in school, my rector taught us about the five Ps of success: Proper preparation prevents poor performance. If something is to be good, it must first be prepared for. The Church, in its wisdom, understands the importance of preparation. Hence, four weeks before Christmas are set aside as a period of preparation for the events and ceremonies of Christmas. This four-week period of preparation is what we call Advent.

Many have already started making plans for Christmas; some are repainting their houses, and children are asking for new clothes, shoes and toys. Some are stocking their homes with gallons of fuel and diesel so that during the holidays, there would be worry about the usual fuel scarcity we witness year after year during this period. Even so, preparation for Christmas is more important than an inward spiritual renewal. This is because if Christ is not born anew in your life this Christmas, your celebration would be a mere dissipation - a waste of time and money.

Let us now consider some of the vital points for our spiritual preparation for Christmas, which our readings today highlight:

1. Resolve to Walk Away From the Darkness of Sin
The first step to spiritual renewal is an examination of conscience. If you want to renovate a house, you don’t just start breaking it apart. The first thing you do is to go around the house and inspect it thoroughly. You find those places that are leaking and those places that are damaged. You note the things to throw away and the things to keep. This is exactly what we are called to do within our spiritual houses during this period.

You might assume your house is clean if you don’t notice the cobwebs on your ceiling. This is the time to look inward and take a broom to remove the cobwebs blocking you from God. When you read today’s first reading, you notice that Isaiah asks for God’s mercy and forgiveness. He says: “We have sinned… we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:5-6).

When last did you go for Confession? Before confessing your sins, did you examine your heart thoroughly? Did you identify your sins and the factors leading to such sins? It is one thing to replace a damaged ceiling in the house, but if you don’t find out the cause (perhaps a leaking roof), that ceiling will keep going bad. Many of us have become habitual sinners today and have lost the sense of sin because we never examine our conscience and discover why we keep falling into sin.

Like people working in a refuse disposal company, we become so used to the smell that we no longer think it smells. Let us pray with the Psalmist today: “O God, bring us back; let your face shine on us, and we shall saved.”

2. Be Vigilant, Don’t Fall for Satan’s Trap
Just as we are preparing for a spiritual renewal this Christmas, the devil and his agents are seriously planning and strategizing to pull our society into increasing sinfulness. For instance, watch out for the kind of dress style you will soon begin to see around, and watch out for the kind of entertainment and shows that will be organized during this period. It is not ordinary; it is a spiritual battle for your soul.

If we do not open our spiritual eyes, we will get carried away by the evil wind blowing hot during Christmas. St. Peter puts it beautifully when he wrote: “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary, the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith.” (1st Peter 5:8-9). Yes, the devil is like a lion looking for people to devour. You would be tempted more than ever before, have more invitations to parties and free drinks, have more friends coming over, and if you are not careful, you will let down your spiritual guard.

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus says, “Watch, therefore -- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or cockcrow, or in the morning-- lest he comes suddenly and finds you asleep” (Mark 13:35-36). The opposite of being vigilant is falling asleep. Just as we have vigilante groups guarding our neighbourhoods, you, too, need to become a vigilante over your heart.

3. Don’t be Idle. Get Busy Doing the Master’s Work
Still, in our Gospel passage, Jesus describes the season of Advent through this analogy: “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.” (Mark 13:34) Many consider Christmas as a time to rest but like Jesus, our Master tells us, we must get busy. Take note of that statement: “Each with his work.”

And what is this work that our Master wants to find us doing? It is the work of charity, giving things away, helping others, and making sacrifices for one another just as Christ left His glory in heaven, sacrificing everything for our salvation. This is why we prayed in our opening prayer at mass today: “Grant your faithful, we pray almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds…” Take note: “Righteous Deeds.”

The second aspect of this work is telling people the good news about Jesus Christ, reminding them that Christmas without Christ is a mere crisis. Become like an angel and announce to the shepherds that Jesus Christ is born.

If I want to invite an important visitor to my house, I first ensure my house is clean and has the necessary facilities to make the person comfortable. Right? We have a very, very, very important visitor; the greatest of the greatest is coming. What are you doing to prepare for Him?
Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, grant us the resolve to meet you with righteous deeds so that we may be worthy to possess your heavenly kingdom. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

*Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (1st Sunday of Advent. Bible Study: Is. 63:16-17,64:1,3-8, Ps. 80:2-3,15-16,18-19, 1 Cor. 1:3-9, Mark 13:33-37).*

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu