1st Sunday of Advent | November 27, 2016
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 here: Salesian Sermons
PROTIP: You can take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on all the readings.
So I must be honest.
I have days in which I feel utterly defeated.
Days in which I really question why I remain in this line of work. Days in which I just want to turn in the collar and walk away.
And it seems that these last few weeks, I have had more of them than usual.
I guess in some ways it is an occupational hazard of being in the priesthood and working in urban education.
For you are constantly faced with the darkness.
You watch families get evicted from their homes and you must grapple with the criminal justice system as your former students are swept into it.
You hear the stories of abuse and neglect as children cry in your office. You struggle to raise funds to pay for funeral expenses.
And you bury too many people . . . children from bullets and fathers from cancer, mothers from drug addictions and friends from suicide.
And all of this darkness can take its toll. The light seems hard to find. The promises that were made to us as followers of Christ seem to ring hollow.
And I must admit, when you are having one of those days, readings, like the ones from this weekend, don’t exactly help.
For you hear the words of Isaiah and all you can picture is the exhaustion that comes from struggling up the mountain without ever feeling like you ever reach the top.
You hear the words of St. Paul and all you can picture is the night being advanced and you struggle to envision what the dawn would even look like anymore.
The promises of a world in which our weapons were destroyed. In which war and conflict were ended. In which divisions cease. In which light would break forth.
They seem hopelessly naïve and foolish.
So this is where I was this weekend, when one of my best friends reached out to me. His name is Paul Webster and he is the principal of Nativity Prep.
And one of the things that I have always appreciated about our friendship is that I have never needed to explain how dark the night can be to Paul.
For it was he that has listened to these students with me.
It was he who helped me figure out solutions to seemingly impossible situations, again and again and again.
And most importantly, it was he who held me as the full weight of the loss of my former student came crashing down upon me in my office.
And yet, I could tell that he was worried about me.
So we started talking. And that is when he offered his own insight into my darkness. Insight born from his own spiritual journey.
He said, Brian, that is what is amazing about the incarnation. Jesus chose to enter into the disorder and imperfection of human life. He didn’t run from it. He didn’t pretend that it did not exist. He did not idealize it.
He embraced it. He embraced it in all of its brokenness and its beauty, its darkness and its light. And in the process, he transformed it.
And that is why it is always a WEARY world that rejoices in the birth of Christ. For it is a world that is waiting to be re-created. A world in need of a savior. A world waiting for the dawn.
And that is when I realized just how important this season of Advent is.
For I believe that if we are to truly claim the name of Christian, we must be comfortable living in the season of Advent.
For this season presents us with the tension that we all experience daily in our journeys.
The tension that exists between what we hope for and what is often all too real.
The tension that exists between darkness and light.
The tension that does not allow us to pretend that everything is ok. The tension that does not allow us to simply blare Christmas music in the hopes that we will not hear the voices from both within and without crying out in pain and fear, anguish and despair.
The tension that forces us to confront what it truly means to believe, to hope, to love right here and right now
And in our journey through Advent we come to encounter the truth that we all need to be reminded of.
That our God did choose to enter a world shrouded in darkness and fear and became its light.
And in turn, we must do the same.
Our Gospel is right my friends. The Son of Man will arrive when we least expect.
I encountered him once again in my boss who was willingly to enter my darkness and listen before allowing his love to gently transform me once again into an agent of light and love in the world.
Where will you encounter Christ this Advent season?
And maybe, more importantly, who will encounter Christ in you this day?
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.
May God be Praised.