O IMMANUEL, we come to praise you on this first Sunday of Advent. A new year is beginning, a new year in which we eagerly anticipate the wonder of your coming among us. A new year in which to worship you, to heed your call to obedient action, to listen to your teachings. Each Advent is like seed sown in our lives. May it not be choked by the weeds of work and shopping and parties and decorating and baking. May it not be ground underfoot by the intense soil of cloying sentimentality so that it cannot survive the fierce pressures of the seasons.
No, not that. May it fall into good soil, as it did with Mary. O Immanuel, come to us as you came to Mary. Let her actions be our example. With her as our teacher, may we hear the words of the annunciation as a personal statement addressed to us so that we do not remain bystanders and spectators but become active participants in the divine mystery of grace. Give us the simplicity to hear the wonderful words: "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you." Give us the trust to respond: "I belong to the Lord, body and soul. Let it be to me according to your word." Give us the clarity of vision to proclaim the consequences of our surrender to God: "You have scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. You have pulled down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree" (Luke 1:51-52).
O Immanuel, may our celebration of Advent be not just a remembrance of things past but a present reality. As you came to Mary, so you still come to us.
Yet even this is not enough. Help us to focus our Advent meditations not just on the past and not just on the present reality. Help us to look forward to the future consummation, when the weight of heavenly glory will again descend upon us. Remind us that you come as glorious Ruler as well as tiny baby.
Show yourself to us as you showed yourself to John on the Isle of Patmos: with a face that shines like the sun at full strength, with hair as white as wool, with the stars in your right hand and a two-edged sword issuing from your mouth (Rev. 1). Remind us that you are watching us and will call us to account even as you did to the seven churches of John (Rev. 2-3).
Then our waiting and watching can no longer remain mere endurance, patient but also passive. Then we shall be roused once again to active watching and waiting. Then we shall be alert and full of eagerness, like children on the night before Christmas. Then we shall be like Mary, with the child growing in her womb, busying herself in preparation. Then we shall be like John the Baptist, calling all things into account and reordering our lives and our world.
"Maranatha! Even so, come, Lord Jesus; come quickly." Amen.