- The Washington Times - Monday, December 3, 2001

The following is an excerpt from a sermon preached yesterday by the Rev. Dennis Kleinmann of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Alexandria:
Today we begin a new church year with this season of Advent. Advent is the four weeks or so preceding Christmas which, with all its somber majesty represented by the purple vestments we wear, reminds us that Christ has indeed already come, about 2,000 years ago, at that first Christmas.
Advent is also the church season which reminds us that Christ will come again to each of us individually when we die and also at the end of time in the general judgment. Advent further calls to mind another coming of Christ.
He comes to us, into our hearts and souls, each time we receive His grace, especially through the sacraments, including Holy Communion today. The church in all her wisdom gives us this special time of year to prepare to prepare in a more profound way, for these comings of Christ.
All three readings reflect this understanding. In the first reading from Isaiah, we just heard, "O house of Jacob, come let us walk in the light of the Lord." In the second reading from Romans, St. Paul warns us, "It is the hour to wake from sleep." He tells us to live in the light, not in the darkness, in the way of holiness, not of evil, in God's way, not Satan's. And in the Gospel, Jesus Himself directs, "Stay awake you also must be prepared."
What we must realize is that Advent is not yet Christmas, that Advent is not some secularized, commercialized shopping opportunity. It is not meant to be a frenzy of parties and gift-buying sprees. It is not meant to be a time of stress as we try to get all the decorations up, the presents wrapped, the cards written. It is meant to be a prayerful, meditative period preparing for this year's celebration of the birth of Christ. It is meant to be a time to look at our own lives and see how well we are doing with Christ, how well we are responding to His love and grace, to His coming to us even daily. Are we welcoming Him with open hearts by truly loving our neighbor and above all God Himself? Are we prepared to meet our Creator whenever that might be? As our Lord says in today's Gospel, "For at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."
I realize it is easy to get caught up in all the hype of this season with Christmas songs playing, numerous invitations to festive events, advertisements everywhere enticing us to shop and buy. In and of themselves there is nothing wrong with any of that, but these things can distract us from what is truly important. We may lose our focus. It seems that society in general has.
In many places, especially public places, we aren't even supposed to use the term "Christmas," because it is too religious. Of course it is, for on December 25 we will celebrate the birth of Christ, Who did come centuries ago to redeem us. During this season of Advent, we celebrate the gift that Jesus Christ can come to us daily and that He will come again in all his glory.
These next few weeks are a wake-up call. We must turn from the drunkenness, the promiscuity and lust, the rivalry and jealousy, that can fill our lives. We instead need to turn toward God and immerse ourselves in His grace a grace which will make eternal life with Him possible.
A good wake-up call will leave a lasting impression on us, which I hope this Advent will. That is what Advent is all about. We gather together to pray and to support each other. Today as we begin this sacred season of Advent we ask ourselves, "Are we prepared for the coming of our Lord?"
Next week: A sermon by the Rev. Kevin McGee of Bethany Community Church in Laurel.

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