Preti, Mattia, 1613-1699. Christ in Glory, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved December 3, 2022]. Original source: and Web Gallery of Art.

RCL Year A, Advent 1
Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Saint Matthew 24:36-44

Today begins a new Church Year, a new opportunity to get it right, to get our lives right. I assume, and hope you will agree, that getting our lives right is a lifetime endeavor. We human beings are not able to get it right and keep it right without some effort, some continuous and intentional concentration. We never finish this project, and we never wisely put it on a back burner.

The sublime Collect, with which we began this service, touches all that I have said. The Collect’s reach is extensive in its breadth and influence. The 1662 Prayer Book requires it to be said each day in Advent. And since 1662 remains the official Prayer Book in the Mother Church, you will easily find parishes and cathedrals there following that rule.

The Collect is based on today’s Epistle, where you will find “cast away the works of darkness,” and “put on the armor of light.” You will find there, too, the fulcrum of the Collect, “now in the time of this mortal life.” “Now” is the only moment we truly possess, though we can think about the past and the future. “Now” is the only time we can do anything. “Now” is the only time we can exercise our will and intention to get our lives right and keep them right.

“Now” is the only moment we can “wake from sleep,” in the words from the Epistle. “Now in the time of this mortal life” is the only time we have to meet the Lord, at the end of time, when “we may rise to the life immortal.” We are constrained to use the time of our mortal life to be ready when time ends to rise to the life immortal.

“Now” is our only option. In times when the things we depend upon for everyday stability are shaken, such as most all of the time since the attack on the United States in 2001, the Second Coming of Christ, together with the apocalyptic signs which are associated with it, can take on a significance which might escape us in comfortable times. For the Second Coming of Christ, above all else, means that Christ is the last word. It means that God, who is not shaken, is very much God and in providential control. It means that, come what may, we have a good future, and that future is Christ himself.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel today that we cannot know the exact times or seasons of the end and of his Coming. Only the Father knows that. The only thing that we can do is that thing I began with. We can use the time we have been given to get our lives right so that we can present ourselves to him when he comes. Christ’s Final Advent crucially belongs to the Gospel. Think: our own, singular, personal end could come any day or any hour. And, how many decades or even years do we have in any case? Christ is coming to us, and we are most definitely going to him, in just a little while. Whichever way you look at it, as far as we are concerned, our end is near. Our past, our present, and our future lie within the province of his grace. To embrace this reality is not to escape from life in the real world; it is to receive a new lease on life in the real world.

Let each of us receive the new lease on life that is the message of Advent. Christ is our future. “For he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth, * and with righteousness to judge the world and the peoples with his truth.”[1] He is the Lord whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. He is the Lamb of God whose way John the Baptist prepares. And he is the life-giving Lord Savior–our food and drink in this Eucharist–knocking at the door of our souls. Let us invite him in.

[1] Psalm 95, The BCP (1979), page 45.