November 27, 2016 - Stay Awake! The First Sunday of Advent

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come,
the mountain of God’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of God from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Isaiah 2:1-5

On this First Sunday of Advent, the first reading is Isaiah’s extraordinary vision of a world in which “many peoples” have recommitted themselves to faith.  It is a world of committed to peace, but we are not given the impression that peace is imposed by God with the threat of punishment.  Nor are we given the impression that peace followed successful military or political efforts (the Assyrians were in total and brutal control of the region in Isaiah’s time).  Rather, Isaiah describes a peace that arises naturally from a people who are in harmony with the divine.  Buddhists, more consistently than Christians, say that harmony is achieved by being fully aware and awake.  But it is a concept firmly within Christianity too.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus exhorts us to stay awake.  He acknowledges that those who are awake look and act just like everyone else.  They don’t display heroic virtue but are hidden like the thirty-six Lamed Vav of mystical Judaism or the forty Abdals of mystical Islam:   

Two men will be out in the field;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Therefore, stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Matthew 24:37-44