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SUNDAY SCRIPTURES FOR DEC. 4 | Let’s follow Jesus’ example of being the first one to love

2nd Sunday of Advent | Awareness and attentiveness are hallmarks of those who are setting aside their old ways

In order to have a renewed vision, we have to be willing to let go of the things that blind us in the first place. Advent is a season of reawakening, in order to see with a new heart and spirit. We hope that our renewal will come through a reigniting of the Spirit and His gifts within us.

When we hear of images such as a lion lying down with a lamb, our cynicism and negativity break through the surface. Using our logic, we know that would never work — unless the lamb was dinner. But to expect a world in which those two creatures reside side-by-side in peace, we have to get rid of our present blindness.

We have certain prejudices, divisions and hatred in our minds and hearts, sometimes without being conscious of them. We don’t see a world that is capable of peace, because we have lived in division and hatred. Many of us have felt the burden and lowered our expectations of God’s grace because we haven’t had the eyes to see God’s presence in our life right now.

Our cynicism may have created an expectation that someone else should make the first step in forgiveness or someone else should be more generous. After that, we would promise to be a better version of ourselves, but we aren’t willing to take the first step. Do you believe that someone deserves your generous spirit before you’re willing to give it? Are you only willing to love people who agree with you and do things as you do? If we are modeling our lives on Jesus as we prepare for His birth at Christmas, we should follow His example of being the first one to love, forgive and show compassion. This applies to our enemies or those who hate us.

There is a warning in the Scriptures this weekend about those of us who practice a religion on a regular basis. It warrants us not to presume that because of our practice, we have an automatic ticket to be in a relationship with God. Too often, we become unconscious of the actions we perform and do them as a duty or habit. We somehow think that going through the motions is what God asks of us. It’s time for us to wake up and remember that what God asks of us is a humble and contrite heart and a willingness to bring about His kingdom here on earth. God asks us to love our neighbor and Him with our whole mind, soul, heart and strength.

During this second week of Advent, we need to be aware of how much the celebration of Christmas is creeping into our days. We are giving away the moments of conversion for the false joy of Christmas. If our hearts are not conformed to the heart of Jesus, how can we recognize Him as He is born into our lives each day? And how can we recognize Jesus in those around us if we don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and make a practice of serving His people?

Awareness, awakeness and attentiveness are the hallmarks of those who are setting aside their old ways and opening to the Spirit of God. So, how’s it going this Advent? Are you putting yourself in a situation that will wake you up, or are you just doing the same old things expecting to somehow be renewed? Are you trying to give out of your need rather than your surplus? Are you making sure that the way you treat others tells them that you love them so much you would die for them? Are you being an Advent person?

Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.

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