(Jer 33:14-16; Ps 24; 1 Thess 3:12-4:2; Lk 21:25-28, 34-36)

Today we begin our new year in the Church by celebrating the first Sunday of Advent Year C. Advent is a time when the Church gives us four Sundays to use in preparing for a twofold coming of Jesus: his coming to us in the flesh at christmas and his final coming to judge the living and the dead. We therefore need to prepare ourselves to embrace both comings of Jesus Christ.

More than two weeks ago, I was shocked that going to the shopping mall in Basingstoke, places were already set for Christmas. The new market stands had been built with new shops opened; the Christmas lights and decorations already up; and many families already doing Christmas shopping. This was surprising to me because where I come from we only start thinking about Christmas midway or more into Advent. Reflecting about this, I saw it as a good sign of early preparations, if only the business overtones are not stressed.

We need to use this period of Advent to prepare for the coming of Christ. Jesus uses the gospel passage of today to advise us to watch ourselves and see that our hearts are not coarsened with debauchery, drunkenness and the cares of life. He says so particularly because if we do not watch ourselves, the master's return either at Christmas or his final coming will not meet us ready. Therefore for us to prepare adequately, he prescribes two things for us:

1. Vigilance: Vigilance simply means we mount guard always over our senses and the sources of temptations so that we do not fall into sin. It also means we stay awake at all times making sure that nothing comes to stain us as we await the masters coming. I will therefore recommend as part of vigilance the need to reconcile with those who have hurt us, those we find very difficult to forgive. Let's start by removing in our hearts anything that might block, us from receiving and giving forgiveness. We also need to check our thoughts and words and this moment to see that what we think and say should be of benefit to others.

2. Prayers: It's often said that a prayerless Christian is a powerless Christian. I have come to discover the truthfulness of this statement in my own life. When I neglect prayer in anyway, I see how weak I become in other things. We therefore need to take up time to pray sincerely as part of our preparations for Christ's coming. If you have not had a regular prayer schedule, this is an opportunity to develop one. Since Christmas is a family feast, let us learn to pray as a family; be it in the morning or before we send our children to bed. Family prayers is very important because a family that prays together, stays together.

As we prepare for Christ's coming at christmas, my one prayer for you all comes from the opening words of St. Paul in the second reading of today: "May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you. And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all the saints." (1 Thess 3:12-13).

May we all have a happy Advent celebration as we strive to prepare for Christmas.

  - Fr. Rinda