Readings: 1 John 1:1-4, Luke 1:1-4, Luke 4:14-22
[Mass for the School Children.]
In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah preached about 750 years before Jesus was born. At that time, the Jewish people were in a time of great turmoil and persecution. Isaiah preached to them God’s promise that he would send a savior to deliver the people from being unjustly imprisoned, from their blindness, and from their suffering. Jesus reads this promise to the people gathered in the synagogue, and then does something very startling: he tells them that the promise that Isaiah preached has come true, and that Jesus is the savior God promised to send.
I’m sure that you all know very well that Christmas is less than a month away. What do we celebrate on Christmas day? The birth of Jesus our Savior. On Sunday, we will begin the season of Advent, which is the time that we as a Church prepare for the coming of Jesus. In the readings every Sunday, we’ll be hearing all about God’s promises. As you look around today, you can tell that the church is different: we have already begun to decorate the church for Advent. But we left one thing out, and that is the candles for our Advent wreath. Here at St. Raphael, we are really the advent wreath, as we gather in kind of a circle around the Altar. And we place the candles at the four corners of the Church. So now, some of the eighth graders are going to help me put those candles in place as we walk around the Advent wreath and think about God’s promises.
On the first Sunday of Advent, we will light this first purple candle. Purple is the color of repentance, the color that reminds us to be sorry for our sins. The readings that we hear that day will tell us all about God’s promise to save us. Jesus, who has risen from the dead and has ascended into heaven, will come again in glory and will usher in a kingdom of peace and justice. He tells us to watch for his coming every day and to pray for the strength to hang in there until he comes back for us.
On the second Sunday of Advent, we will light the first two purple candles. The readings that we will hear that day will tell us about God’s promise to forgive us. We all have moments when we sin against God, when we break our friendship with him. Whether we don’t go to Mass on Sunday, or disobey our parents, or cheat on our school work, or are mean to our brothers and sisters and classmates, all of these things break our friendship with God. But the good news is that God still wants to be friends with us, and he promises to forgive us of our sins. When we confess our sins and say we’re sorry, we are preparing the way of the Lord in our hearts.
On the third Sunday of Advent, we will light the first two purple candles, and then light the pink candle. The pink candle reminds us that even in a time when we are working hard to be sorry for our sins and to change our lives, we can still be joyful because Jesus is coming. The readings we will hear that day will tell us about God’s promise to make everything new. Even when everything seems hopeless, and the days are dreary; even when we hear about wars and crime and all kinds of sadness, we can hope in God. God never meant for all this sadness to be part of our lives, and he promises to send the Holy Spirit to recreate the world and to recreate our hearts so that we can all share in God’s love.
On the fourth Sunday of Advent, we will light all the candles, including this final purple candle. On that day, with all the candles lit, we will know that the birth of Jesus is very near. On that day, our church will be brighter with all four candles lit, and our hearts will be brighter because Jesus will enter our lives once again. On that day, the readings will tell us about the promise that we can be God’s holy people. Even though we have sinned and have made the world darker, Jesus comes to brighten our darkness and claim us as his own people. We are made holy because Jesus, who is holiness itself, is in our lives.
Advent gives us the chance to get rid of all the darkness in our lives and to try to get rid of the darkness in our world. As we light our candles every Sunday, we might also take the opportunity to lighten our world by going to confession before Christmas, by reaching out to the poor and needy by buying a gift for someone on the Sharing Tree. We can lighten our own hearts by listening to the readings at Mass and praying for ourselves and our families and friends, and for those who have no one to pray for them.
I want you all to memorize one little prayer this Advent. I want you to pray it every morning when you get up, and every night before you go to bed. I want you to pray it whenever you think of it during the day. When I see you in the halls or anywhere around here, I’d love it if you prayed it with me right then and there. It’s a simple prayer, and there are just three words: Come, Lord Jesus. Let’s say it together: Come, Lord Jesus. And again: Come, Lord Jesus. Now by yourselves…
If we pray this prayer every day of Advent, we will truly be ready to celebrate the birthday of Jesus on Christmas Day. Let’s pray it just one more time together: Come, Lord Jesus!