Rise And Shine (1st Advent Sunday)

Romans 13:11-14 Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. 

Rise And Shine. 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Today we are starting the countdown to Christmas. Advent Season is the time of year when we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The traditional preparation for Christmas is fasting –  Advent is a season of penance. 

In that spirit, please bow your head and close your eyes. I want you to take a moment to call to mind the darkness that has been in your life this year. Your struggles with sin; Your struggles with circumstance; Your struggles with loved ones and neighbors; Your struggles with your finances; Your struggles with your feelings; Your struggles with your fear, your struggles with your faith, and your struggles with your God. 

Go as deep as you can. Remember the ways you have fallen short of what you believe God expects of you. Recall the ways you have fallen short of what you believe God desires for you. Think of the people to whom you are responsible. Honestly assess your relationships with them, and whether you’ve been there for them when they needed you.  

How loving have you been? 

Call to mind everything about the world that bothers you, that’s angered you; and that you wish to see changed. Think about whether you have “been the change you wish to see in the world”.  

There are so many ways we have fallen short. This is the time to observe and feel these failures in the presence of God. To consider how we have been spiritually asleep rather than wakeful and watchful, as our Lord has commanded. Go into that darkness of spiritual sleep and forgetfulness in your soul for just a few moments longer.  

Now, repeat after me, and say to your soul: “It is time for you to wake up! 

“Salvation is nearer to you now than when you first believed.  

“The night is far gone, the day is at hand.  

“Cast off the works of darkness.  

“Put on the armor of light.” 

“Rise and shine!” 

This year has been a long, dark year of waiting. In this way it’s been like a long Advent season. Waiting for the lockdown to end; waiting for businesses to reopen; waiting to see our loved ones again; waiting for a cure; waiting for a vaccine; waiting for election results; waiting to see when this storm will finally pass. Waiting for good news. 

Waiting for the light at the end of the dark tunnel! 

Our whole world is pregnant with expectation. We know it’ll get better. It’s just a matter of when. Yes, there are naysayers out there – let them naysay. We’re the people of the good news, the people of faith; of confidence in what we hope for and assurance of things not seen; of glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, of world without end – Amen!  

“Salvation is nearer to you now than when you first believed”. God is with us! He hasn’t promised you doom and gloom, but “glory to glory”. There is a season for everything, and a time for every purpose under heaven – but these seasons and times are all united to one single purpose, to bring glory to our loving Father in heaven.  

And all things work together in this united purpose for those who love Him. God doesn’t want to see His children beaten down or their light extinguished; he wants you to rise and shine, and he wants the world to see it! When folks who are asleep in the darkness see you rise and shine, you will inspire them to rise and shine, and give glory to God – and for you “who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.” 
 

The Advent season is a lot like the seasons in our life when we are waiting – just waiting. Waiting around. “Sitting on the Dock of The Bay, watching the tide roll away, sitting on the dock of the bay, wasting time…” The faithful of Israel knew that Christ was coming, but they had to wait for him. Our Lady Mary, the Mother of God, knew that God was coming into the world – she knew in the most intimate of ways, but she had to wait. And not just wait, but wait with the pains of pregnancy. Her belly got swollen; her whole body became a servant to the little baby growing inside her; everything she ate, that little baby had to get a piece; her body transformed in order to serve and nurture the new life growing inside her; her back became curved and sore as the baby grew; the bones of her hips expanded to prepare the way for him.  

Any ladies in here who are mamas, you know: pregnancy is pain!  

The Church is like Mary – we are like Mary. In our individual lives, we are called to make our bodies pure temples for God’s presence, for Christ’s presence, by the Holy Spirit. Mary had the same calling before we did. The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” 

Just as Mary is a pure spotless virgin, so is the church “without stain or wrinkle or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.” Just as the body of the Son of God was formed by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary, so are each of us members of the Body of Christ formed by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Church.  

That’s why we have the old nickname, “Mother Church”. 

Mary gave birth to Christ; the Church gives birth to Christians. 

And: Christians are pregnant with the indwelling Holy Spirit! 

The Bible tells you, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God! You are not your own! 

You are like Mary. Your belly might not be swollen; your body might not be a servant to an actual baby inside you that gets a piece of all the food you eat, and makes your back sore as he grows. But your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and as your spiritual life grows from glory to glory, you are going through the birth pains of a new you, transformed more and more into the image of Christ. “What we will be has not yet been made known…but we know that when He appears, we will be like him.” 

So let’s not shy away from the pains of spiritual pregnancy. You have a glorious hope – Christ in you! In life, there’s always going to be the ebb and flow of this sense of anticipation, of hope yet to be fulfilled, of walking in the darkness toward a light that seems far down the tunnel. But you have the light of Christ growing within you, day by day, glory to glory. You’ve got the light in you that overcomes the darkness around you – rise and shine! 

*** 

This Advent season, put yourself in Mary’s shoes. Share in her faith and hope that within you is the hope of glory – waiting to bust out, but on God’s time. There will be darkness, but the light is going to come right on schedule to overcome it. Sure as the sunny day follows the dark night. “Silent night, Holy night, Son of God, love’s pure light, Radiant beams from thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord at thy birth, Jesus, Lord at thy birth.”  

Don’t be afraid to meditate on the darkness of the silent night of your soul and of the world, since you have the hope that love’s pure light is already within you, even if it’s not yet visible. It is right and good to put your heart in a place of humble penance. This darkness is where God has put you on purpose, to rise and shine in it! 

St. Tertullian equated this darkness with death and sleep, and he saw a connection between the story of Jesus on the Cross and the story of Adam in the Garden, sleeping while God formed Eve from his side. He said, “If Adam was the [prefigure] of Christ, the sleep of Adam was the death of Christ; [Adam] slept in death so that Eve coming forth from the wound in his side might prefigure the Church, the true Mother of the living.”  

The ancient fathers and mothers of the Church took this symbolic connection between the Garden and the Cross further. They thought it no coincidence that while he was hanging from his cross, Jesus said to John, “Woman, behold your mother,” and to Mary, “behold your son!” — saying these words just before this sign of his wounded side was shown.  

These two signs of Adam’s wounded side and Jesus’ wounded side are connected. 

People often wonder why Jesus always called his mother, “woman”. Isn’t that rude? Doesn’t the commandment say to honor thy mother and father? Would you ever call your mama “woman”?! 

The real meaning of Jesus’ calling his mother “woman” is a bit lost in translation. But it goes back to the first story of the Bible. It says that Adam called his wife “woman” also. But the original Hebrew says that Adam called his wife “Chava,” which means “mother of the living.” This is the word Jesus was using. In calling his mother “chava,” Jesus was calling his mother Mary, the mother of the living.  

And this is so — by the Cross, God the Father adopted us – so it is appropriate that Jesus should say to all his disciples through John, “Behold your mother.” Jesus was showing John and showing us all that his own mother has become the mother of all God’s people, since Jesus, though he is the only-begotten Son of God, “is not ashamed to call them brothers.” The Father was using to the Cross to reconcile all people to himself and bring together this family of love.  

The water and the blood that came out of Jesus’ side are signs of the waters of baptism and the baptism of Christ’s death. Jesus said, “You must be born again, by the water and the spirit,” and we are told, the water and the blood and the spirit all testify and agree on this same thing, that thereby one is born again. So with that wound on the side of Christ that dripped blood and water, we are meant to call to mind the wound of Adam from whose side the first mother of the living came – and this is the sign God used to show us that we who were first born of the first Eve that came from Adam’s side are now born of the new Eve that came from side of the new Adam, who is Jesus. 

So this darkness which we meditate on, the darkness of the sleep of Adam, it’s time to we cast it off. “It’s time to wake from your slumber!…put on the armor of light” – rise and shine! For just as the mother of the living emerged from the sleep of mortal Adam, we are born again of the Spirit through the mother of the living who emerges from the sleep of the immortal Christ, who arose from his sleep more than just refreshed from an afternoon nap, but resurrected to glory and ascended to the right hand of God. Our calling is with Him, our calling is to do as he does. Rise and shine! 

In what ways are you asleep right now? In what ways are you living in darkness? This season of Advent is the time to ask these questions and meditate on the answers. To be honest without ourselves about how we have been spiritually asleep rather than wakeful and watchful. To meditate just a bit longer on the silent dark night of the soul even as the light of the star of Bethlehem begins to shine, leading us to the newborn Christ in the manger. 

Now, once again, repeat after me, and say it to your deepest soul, with feeling: “It is time for you to wake up! 

“Salvation is nearer to you now than when you first believed.  

“The night is far gone, the day is at hand.  

“Cast off the works of darkness.  

“Put on the armor of light.” 

“Rise and shine!” 

Amen. 

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