Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle A

First Sunday of Advent


 Matthew 24. 37-44

"Stay awake!”

Advent is a lovely season; it is a time for reflection, a time for quiet listening to and lingering on and welcoming of the Word of God. Even the gentle purple of Advent suggests slowing down, waiting for something yet to come. Yet throughout the season of Advent, the frenzied action-packed shopping days before Christmas, plus the frantic demands of carol concerts, card-writing, gift-wrapping, nativity plays, seasonal parties and so on, all contrast sharply with any notion of slowing down. It can indeed be the most stressful time of the year. We humans do sometimes get things so desperately upside down!

The readings of Advent invite us to look back to our roots in Judaism, especially to the prophet Isaiah, then on to John the Baptist, and to Mary, all preparing by God’s grace the way for the first coming of Jesus in his birth at Bethlehem. But the Advent readings also point us to the future, to the second coming of Christ, at the end of time – “on a day you do not know”, and “at an hour you do not expect”. So Advent is at once a season of memory and of anticipation, a time when past and future touch one another in a hope-filled present. And that is where we are; we live in the present.

Jesus tells us to “stay awake” – to be alert to his presence in our lives right now, to be open to his presence, recognise it, respond to it. This very moment is precious, God's gift of now, blessed with the presence of Jesus, whose birth we prepare to celebrate. Here is a time for us to get to know him better, to experience him as friend, to let him become a reality in our lives, someone to whom we can listen and speak in a personal and trusting manner. Advent is our new year and Jesus is inviting us personally to seize this significant moment. Advent is challenge to pause, invitation to reflect, opportunity to grow, time to welcome Jesus more intimately into our lives - and the longer our list of things still to be done before Christmas, the more pressing is our need to accept it.