There is an urgency in our holy Scriptures for today, the first Sunday of Advent. They invite us to a spiritual tune-up at the start of our new liturgical year.
Conversion: Paul uses the vivid imagery of throwing off the bed-clothes and getting dressed to start the new day . There is maybe some hint of the struggle some people experience in getting up in the morning — a symbol for conversion. The day to prepare for is the new day of Christ’s coming in judgment. The real question to be faced is “Can we face Christ?” “Have we really cast off the deeds of darkness/self-interest, in favour of living in the light of the gospel?” The gospel faces us with this question about how alert we are to our real selves. We are supposed to belong to Christ; have we really lived as if that were true? Part of the struggle of taking on a new day is the struggle to hope that it may be better than the failures of the day before. The process of conversion, turning from the darkness to the light, is only made possible by the gift of the light itself. It is the rising of the sun that calls us to get up. It was the coming of Christ into the world as its light that makes true conversion possible.
Renewal: Advent invites us to reflect upon time, the relationship between past, present and future. The saving events of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, have to be made present in life as well as liturgy. It is in the changing circumstances of life that the mystery of salvation will unfold. In this new year we hope to be renewed, both individually and as community; and more fully respond to Christ’s presence among us. Let us not give our young people the impression that our church is a relic of the past, isolated from the dynamics of history.
New Dawn: Our Scriptures offer us a bright vision of a new world. It is the vision of a world fully at peace, and a challenge to walk in the light of the Lord. The task of building this towards this ideal world is given to all people but especially to Christians who follow the ultimate peace-maker, Jesus. The challenge for today is how to transform the instruments of war (nuclear fission; digital technology etc) into instruments of a world at peace.
The new liturgical year invites us to be better peace-makers in the future. If we more fully mirror the spirit of Christ, our young people will see new value in the faith, and our worship will be turned not merely towards the past but towards a living presence and a real future.