WelCom December 2018:
First Sunday of Advent – Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
25 ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the turmoil of the ocean and its waves; 26 men fainting away with terror and fear at what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’ 34 ‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will come upon you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come down on all those living on the face of the earth. 36 Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to hold your ground before the Son of Man.’
Advent: A Prelude to Christmas
Today Luke warns us to be ‘Watchful of Ourselves’ and be on the alert, reminding us of approaching cosmic disasters. The other evangelists likewise, sound a similar warning on their first Sunday’s of Advent. Perhaps the advice to be ‘Watchful of Ourselves’ is timely. Christmas has become like a pagan celebration – a time of eating, drinking and over-spending to the detriment of many families. Many forget it was Christ’s Nativity and Mission that was the precursor of His death and resurrection on Calvary, which brings salvation to us all.
Back in the early 1950s, Advent was a busy and exciting period for a young teenager share-milking on his father’s farm. Having trained as an AB technician at 18 years of age I relished a busy season that began with calving, continued in October with artificial breeding work and then followed by silage and hay harvesting. Four farmers worked together in our group as was the custom those days, and there were only two tractors between us. Most of the farm-work was done with horses. The objective was to finish harvesting by Christmas. This never happened so harvesting continued through most of January. Farmers those days, worked to a strict timetable, they left the hay paddock at 4pm to milk cows. Work was hard, and the women brought lunches to the paddocks and helped to do work. No money changed hands between the farmers, and lifelong friendships were forged. On Sundays, harvesting commenced later as every Catholic attended Mass first. The non-Catholic parties understood and encouraged this. World War 2 had not long gone and life was still seen as a gift. Religious discussions seemed more frequent then than now, or that’s how it seemed within the Catholic Youth Movement. The need to be ‘Watchful of Ourselves’ seemed to make more sense back then.
But those days are long gone; today there are no horses but larger farms, and fewer labourers working regulated hours with safety regulations in place. Farm-bikes are the modern form of transport. Contractors take care of all harvesting and most of the seasonal farm work. It seems that today we have more things and people ‘watching out for us’ so there seems less of a need to heed the type of warnings that St Paul and the Evangelists were keen to remind us of on the first Sunday of Advent.
It was easy to understand 70 years ago why the Church previewed the birth of Christ with this ‘take care’ warning. The fact that life was hard in our youth helped us appreciate the difficulties of the early church. We learned why the role of John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets was such a large part of Catholic advent history, and is spelt out in all three synoptic advent texts. All these pre-Christmas ‘Take care Warnings’ are for our benefit. For the sake of ‘Peace on Earth’ this Christmas, may we consider the hardship of others less fortunate than ourselves and the reason for the season this Advent.
Tom Gibson, a retired dairy farmer, is a parishioner in Stratford.