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1st Sunday of Advent Year B
I’m just hanging in there.” “We’re taking one day at a time.” “Just hoping things get better soon.” You’ve heard these remarks lately. We are waiting for brighter days to bring relief in this historical, long and dreary night. Local charities serve millions in need. The rapid production of an effective vaccine is a good sign. Yet, no one is without the anxieties heaped upon us by a live virus.
In the first reading we heard about the Israelites who were in a similar mess. Although they survived plagues, exiles, infighting, they kept looking for more, namely, a powerful warrior-hero to protect them from further trials, to guide them to the promised land unharmed. Their temple was still in shambles and no divinity showed up to help. According to the texts, their leaders did a lousy job of leading and the people themselves did not cooperate with God.
The Israelites, who never saw God in person, cried out “God, show us the radiance of your face!” Although God’s presence was experienced in streams, mountains, fire, deserts and temples, it was culturally common for them to expect a dominant male figure to be their superstar.
Think of Abraham, Moses, David and the other patriarchs. Yes, there were strong women — Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel — but they were never considered in that period of salvation history to be as powerful or capable enough to rescue Israel like a male figure would.
We are caught with the same mentality when we personify God as a powerful manly person, a conquerer, judge, ruler, king, lord, who will come to save us. Carol Dempsey, professor of biblical studies at the University of Portland, urges us to avoid naming God only with masculine labels. So, how do we see the radiant face of God?
The Advent season is a time to ask ourselves this question again: Who are we waiting for? Jesus of Nazareth died to redeem us but the suffering and death continues. Although his bold vision for humanity has not been achieved, that goal has not been abandoned.
We keep the Spirit of Jesus alive by participating in God’s plan for peace and harmony instead of retreating to the comfort of our own domains. We have to step up our efforts in small and large ways rather than waiting for others to solve the problems we collectively have caused.
In his new book,  Pope Francis wrote: “This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities — what we value, what we want, what we seek — and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of. God asks us to dare to create something new … We need to slow down, take stock and design better ways of living together on this earth,” the pope wrote.
The gospel recounts the story of the head of a household, a metaphorical reference to Christ, who it was thought, will soon return. “Be watchful!” “Be alert!” You do not when Christ might show up. Christians long ago thought the return was just around the corner but we are still waiting.
Robin Whitaker, Australian scripture scholar, commented, that in the Greco-Roman culture of Jesus’s time, the prevailing religious expectation was that gods will come or arrive in sudden and unexpected ways to rescue people.
Supposing, instead of waiting for Christ to return, we shifted our great expectations to us. Made in the image and likeness of God we are the human face of God called to illuminate the world. Just maybe God is waiting for us to show up to make things right.
Perhaps, then, Christmas is about the rebirthing of a people called by God to straighten out roads filled with obstacles to harmony and peace. To be effective we cannot fall asleep on the job. We are summoned to be woke, alert to the injustices happening all around us.
Advent has become a count down to what is a very commercialized Christmas holiday. That industry, as we know, is challenged this year. And, we can help by supporting local small businesses. We also can take this time to think of ways to be less complacent and more active in the affairs of our communities.
We know that this planet, this culture, this world we live in is far from being perfect. What if mercy characterized relationships in the world? What if kindness prevailed instead of suspicion?
Courtney V. Buggs, assistant professor of homiletics at the Christian Theological Seminary suggests: “… Enter the Advent season with a tripartite call to watch, to wait, to work. Watching can be hard. Waiting can cause disillusionment. Work can be difficult,” she wrote.
We the people of God are waiting with great expectations for the birthing of better days. The realization that Christ is already in our midst depends on us — our faith, our hope, our charitable deeds, our spirit.
We cannot afford to wait any longer. It is our time now. As the eighth century Chinese poet Tu Fu wrote: “The future slips imperceptibly away. Who can say what the years [ahead] will bring.”
1. Pope Francis, Let Us Dream:The Path to a Better Future