The season of Advent is a double preparation: we get ready for Christ's return at the end of time while we prepare for His coming into our world in the Incarnation. This is why we have the Gospel that describes what appears to be a time of turmoil and distress for many.
1st Thessalonians is a response. Paul writes to address issues, and in this letter the Church of Thessalonika are concerned about Christ's return. Paul encourages, instructs. He reminds them of what he has already taught, and calls them to fix what isn't right, and to go further in what they have already been doing well.
Advent – do something! Like a mini-Lent, prepare means more than setting up decorations and organizing parties. The spiritual life, like the cozy fireplace fires that I remember so well from the winters of my childhood, easily goes out if we ignore it. Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life,and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. The Son of Man comes to us all the time, whether it is at Mass or in our prayers, in our consciences or in the demands of our vocation, in our family and friends or even in absolute strangers who speak God's Word to us. But so often we fail to notice it, to hear it, to respond with love to God who is Love, simply because our hearts have become drowsy.
Hearts become drowsy when we need ignore the fire of our faith, and spend our time elsewhere. Do we visit our hearts often? or is our time filled to the brim with the noise of the senses: television, radio, food, news, shopping, busy-work and unimportant fretting? If God's Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts, then we need to go there to visit Him. Being vigilant, or staying awake like Christ and Saint Paul call us to in today's readings, means doing something, including perseverance in prayer. This is not easy, especially as the next weeks become more franctic for all of us. But Jesus knew what it meant to battle in the spiritual life. He gives us a great example of how to continue through the struggle of keeping our fire of faith kindled, as we are reminded in CCC 2849 Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony. In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with his own.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Let us imitate Christ this Advent so we are ready to receive Him when He comes – both at the end of time and on Christmas Day. And let us visit our heart daily in prayer, so that the fire of our faith is always burning, so that we do not fall asleep and miss His visits to us in our everyday life.