HOMILY: Watching, A Team Effort

Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click hereSalesian Sermons

1st Sunday of Advent | November 29/30, 2014

PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.

Whenever I hear today’s Gospel, I cannot help but think about my brother and I on Christmas Eve.

See, when we were younger, we shared a room that was nestled in the attic.  And directly next to our beds was a small window that gave you a perfect view of the night sky.

Each year, we would be bouncing up and down looking out the window expecting to see a magical sleigh come shooting across the horizon.  But it never happened.

So this one particular Christmas, I decided that I was just going to go to bed.  I was done watching.  I was done looking.

I was tired

I was too cool for this.

I was disillusioned.

But my brother won me over.  I couldn’t help but still get excited as he sat eagerly watching.  How could I disappoint my brother?  So I stayed up with him, one last time.

And then we saw it, a streak of light that crossed in front of the moon.

A streak that appeared to look very much like a sleigh we had been waiting for.

We jumped into bed, shivering with excitement.   Our waiting had paid off.  He was real!

I couldn’t help but think of my brother and I as we begin this Advent season.

For, we hear the call from Christ to watch.  To be alert.  To wait.

And yet, I think that many of us find ourselves falling into the same trap that I did.

We stop waiting.  We stop watching.

Because we’re tired.  We’re pulled in too many directions.  We just don’t have time.

Let’s be honest, this season can be exhausting.  Our lives are already hectic enough, but now we add on the additional stress of Christmas cards to write and gifts to purchase, holiday parties to attend, and travel arrangements to make.  And suddenly we find that we just don’t even have the energy to invest in our spiritual lives.

We want to watch for Christ, but we find ourselves missing him.

We never seem to have enough time to pray.

We struggle to find time to get to mass and when we do get here, our mind is still racing through the never-ending to-do-list.

We see our friend who could really use a listening ear or our child who could use another bedtime story or the man ringing the bell for the Salvation Army and we tell ourselves that we will get to it next time.

We stop waiting.  We stop watching.

Because we’re disillusioned.

We’ve had too many seasons in our lives in which God has seemed absent.  Too many difficult moments in which we felt we journeyed through them alone.

And like a 10 year old me, we find ourselves sitting in bed questioning whether or not we want to give this all another go.

Maybe that is why we celebrate this season as Church.

For vigilance is a team effort.

It is too easy for any one of us to give up out of exhaustion or anxiety, stress or disillusionment.

But when we gather as a community, when we gather as Church, we help each other to see the truth.  We reveal the truth to one another.  That if we are watchful, we will encounter Christ all around us.

In the innocent excitement of children and the joyful reunions that come when our children come home for the holidays,

In the love that is shared when we donate our time to the local shelter or when we visit children at the Ronald McDonald House.

In the quiet moments before mass when the lights are dimmed, the Advent wreath is lit and O Come O Come Emmanuel is being practiced on the piano.

In the moments in which we gather around the table for dinner, sharing stories about the people whose Christmas Cards arrive daily.

In the quest to find the perfect gift that conveys how much we appreciate and love that special person in our life.

In the spouse who grabs the to-do-list so that we can enjoy a quiet evening sipping hot cocoa and watching It’s a Wonderful Life.

In the friend who insists on giving us a hug, knowing how much we miss our loved one who won’t be sitting around the table this year.

Today we begin a journey my friends, a journey to encounter our God once again.  In the events that make up our lives.  In the people that we journey with.  In this Church that claims us as its own.

Let us keep watch, my friends.  Our God truly is near.  May God be Praised.

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