Called to fellowship with Christ, 1st Sunday of Advent 2017

Friends, an important element of life is reading the signs of the time and they are always with and around us. It means to be on guard and not let the mind be obsessed with worries, otherwise we will be surprised by that day like a the coming of a thief. Time is central to the Christian celebration of advent. This time reminds us that the mystery of faith is not complete until Jesus returns. We live in this interim period or the time we call the time of the Gentiles. Our lives are often characterized by sluggishness and inertia, due to lack of attendance and attention. As Christians, we should be the most vigilant people in the world. Alertness should characterize our lives. To awake means, in other words, always being prepared.

Today is the first Sunday of advent, the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the birth of the Child Jesus and the first day of the Church’s liturgical year. Traditionally, it is a great day of the Church for many in the country. This day, the first light is lit in the advent light candle. This is a custom that is not so old. It was only during the 1930s the tradition of four lights became common in Sweden. The four lights are lit one at a time for the four Sundays of Advent. Advent's first light is green, life begins to grow again. It can also be purple. The second advent light is purple or violet, which is the colour preparation or repentance. Advent's third light is pink. The people have reached the middle of advent and Christmas is close. The colour of the fourth advent light is golden that symbolizes happiness and joy. Advent is characterized by the joyful waiting for God to meet his people. Because no one knows when he comes, whether it be in the evening or at midnight or at dawn or in the morning, everyone is expected to be on duty. The word advent comes from Latin Adventus and means arrival. In the light that shines, advent in the liturgical year is spring time.

Throughout history, advent stories have fascinated, inspired and challenged people. They invite us to step into the stories to experience the message. Advent becomes a time to distance oneself and bury the classical seven deadly sins- pride, envy, gluttony, greed or avarice, lust, sloth, and wrath that enslave us to ourselves.  Only when this happens can we even in dark times experience a joyful meeting with the Lord that will transform our lives forever. Whoever you are and whatever burdens you carry, God always wants to be on your side. God wants to share both your joy and your sorrow. It's never too late to return to the Lord. Advent is an inspiring time that wants to give hope and confidence now and for the future. The red thread through Advent is the hope that never dies, a sure conviction that our God will save us as he promised, a reminder that it's never hopeless even when it looks darkest in our lives. Advent prepares us for that day when the night turns light. In his infinite grace he meets us because God is everything possible. If we open ourselves, Advent’s grace can convey power, insight and consolation in a way that is rarely heard or experienced.

God wills and wants to save all people. He is "our redeemer of eternity" as we hear from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 63: 16b). We wander away from God's ways and harden our hearts and do not fear Him. Yet no one has heard, no ear perceived, never has any other eyes seen any other God than him. We are the clay in God's hands, we are all the works of His hand. Therefore, God is our salvation. He comes to save us. He is faithful, He who has called us to fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The time for the destruction of the world is no easy question. It's not everyone who thinks an inevitable judgement’s day is waiting around the corner. Many have a hopeful view of the future. Some believe there is evidence that humanity and the earth will last forever and that our living conditions will be improved. It will be a world without end.  But where is the world really heading? What does the holy scripture, God's word say about this? No one knows the time when he will come (1 Corinthians 1: 3-9). Therefore, we should always be awake.  Christian life means that we should always be alert, remaining awake since the time will be unexpected. In other words, it is to live every moment as the Lord's day. If we have this perspective, we can always be prepared to meet him anytime.

The thoughts of Advent should give us the power and opportunity to influence the only time we really have - the present. This can mean a short meditation every morning to surrender the day in God's hand so that everything is inspired and accomplished in him. What the gospel says about Advent is like a GPS and an interpretative key about what is happening in our world. Jesus gives us challenges, always as well known as Jesus is of course the man who is ignored, contradicted, questioned, mocked, manipulated, forgotten at the same time awaited, honoured, worshiped, loved like no one else in history. With the season of Advent, each of us gets an opportunity to realize our call and act to tirelessly spread the message of Jesus.

The stories about Jesus leave no individual untouched.  Advent makes miracles happen. It can offer us moment to know and experience glimpses of heaven and even living in God. We are closer to the "next world" than we can imagine. There is timelessness in the Christian faith. Christ is equally real even today. Something needs to happen to a person who is really waiting for Christ. A change the whole person must happen when Jesus touches an individual. An attitude is born that is characterized by humility - the mother of all virtues.

Through Christ, we have become rich in everything. There is nothing missing in the gifts of grace that have been poured into our lives. He who in his richness, made himself poor so that we could become rich. At this time, we need steadfastness to the end. We are in God’s hands like clay in the potter’s hand. The Lord has made us, and we are the works of His hands. There are a few who invoke the Lord's name in sincerity and truth.

There are people who think they know how close the world is to its destruction. Year after year, they calculate how close the world is to its end.  They even have what is called the judgement clock. Many who think this way believe that the time for the end of the world is running out.

There are no doubts that there are serious threats to humanity, evidenced by some of these - weapons of mass destruction is increasing worldwide, health problems beyond our control, environmental degradation that reap millions of lives every year because of their breathing in polluted air and more people losing their lives in natural disasters - storms, hurricanes, tornados, typhoons, floods, landslides, earthquakes. There are lots of other serious threats to our survival. Considering this, it is understandable that many are worried and afraid.

I cannot deny that I sometimes feel worried and confused because of unbridled evil, barbarism, wickedness, inhumanity of many in our time. There is now a tragic slave trade going on in Libya, where victims are experiencing hell on earth in the hands of other fellow human beings.  Human value is violated without qualms of conscience. News reporting is mostly about bad and tragic events. In the time we are, can one be hopeful and optimistic? There are many who put their hopes in science and technology and mean that these will be able to solve global challenges and prevent a global disaster. With new medical development, some people say that it is possible to create a new human being, create spare parts of tissues and organs to renew and extend the life of a human being. There are those who believe that in the future we will be able to stop the aging process. They think our ability to solve problems grows faster than the problems. Yet, many people are worried about the future.

If we live in fellowship with Christ every moment of our lives, we do not need to be worried. In him, with him and for him we have already conquered. God's word has already foretold everything that is happening today. It has foretold the darkness of the world and at the same time pointed to a bright future for humanity. There is no doubt that we are living in critical times that are difficult to influence or control. Most people love pleasures more than they love God (2 Timothy 3: 1-4). "A path may seem right in one's eyes - its end is the path of death (Prov 14:12). As Christians, it is important to keep this in mind: the future of our world rests safely in God's hands. God lets people use their free will. Therefore, we have all the bad news. But the exercise of this will has also consequences for the individual. The world is not rushing against a catastrophic end. God has a plan for his world and his plan is good. Time is limited (Ps 83:18, Heb 4:13).

Advent both is and gives a glimpse of a bright future race. We may put our hope to the one who says, "I am the Lord, there is none else" (Isaiah 45:18). Hope gives us spiritual security to meet tomorrow. Humanity awaits Jesus' arrival. The church awaits him and the whole world and creation awaits him. It is in Jesus that our hope is renewed especially in the sacraments. Here Jesus comes at every moment to the individual and the Church. Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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