November 30, 2014
1st Sunday of Advent Year B


I borrow my title from a book of readings for Advent and Christmas by Plough Publishing (2001). Where I am, Christmas lights are beginning to take center stage everywhere. Advent just happens to begin today, but we Filipinos have little appreciation for waiting when it comes to Christmas. We are, by and large, a very patient, and even, long-suffering people, but Christmas simply is not something we wait for … No … we celebrate it well in advance, with malls and music halls taking the lead. Why, Christmas has begun in the airlanes yet last September!

We may have one of the most expensive power rates in the world, but we sure know how to splurge when it comes to lights well before the Feast of Lights actually comes around. We very literally, and figuratively, watch for the light.

Drivers all over the country know what this means. Defensive driving means, among many others, the capacity to watch for the often non-existing tail lights of cars and rickety buses and trucks – for sheer survival! Driving at night especially in the countryside is almost like playing Russian roulette, when stalled vehicles without tail lights or the required EWD (early warning device) abound on the road itself or by the road side.

One needs to watch for the light (or the sheer absence of light!) if you want to arrive at your destination whole and entire.

Today, first Sunday of Advent (which means “coming”), we watch for the light. Light here means a number of things. Let us unpack each of them.

The first reading from Isaiah refers, I would like to believe, to the “light” of self-awareness and self-acceptance. Isaiah shows us the way to self-understanding … “We are like polluted rags,” he says. But having said that, he also claims with certainty: “Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter.” How’s that for a basis for an enlightened existence? Guilty beyond reasonable doubt though we may be, we are loved by God beyond imagination!

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians sheds further encouraging light. We are awash in grace, he says … “enriched in every way,” and “called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The Gospel, for its part, issues a spiritual EWD, an evangelical early warning device … “Be watchful! Be alert!” he counsels us.

I don’t go out too often in our hopelessly clogged roads at night. But there are times the call of duty forces me to drive through the city even if I have no intention to. Driving around Metro Manila and all over the country for that matter is exactly like what Advent season is partially about. Advent is all about watching and waiting, and one cannot do much active watching and waiting without paying attention to the presence (or sheer absence) of light!

I know in my heart that Christ is coming back at the end of time. I know by faith that the world as we know it, along with its glories, are fast drifting away. I know that there is an end of this world as we know it and that there will be a final judgment for both the living and the dead, and that there will be a time when the dead shall rise again precisely to face the ultimate judgment.

But we people tend to forget, as always, as ever. We see all the material lights around us and take notice of all the glitter and the glamor beside us, but miss the spiritual lights of self-introspection and the free and conscious decision to change our ways. We see the material lights exploding in our face, but not the light of conversion and repentance that are both essential needs and realities that stare us in the face. “We have become like unclean people and all our good deeds are like polluted rags.”

We need to take in earnest what we prayed for after the second reading: “Show us, Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation!”

A wise counsel from Isaiah, Paul, and the good Lord Himself for today … Look out for that EWD! Watch for the light! “You do not know when the time will come.”