As we set out on our Advent journey I am always reminded of a particular edition of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. In it little Suzy is walking to the post-box. In her hand is her letter to Santa. Out of the corner of her eye she sees her nemesis, six year old Calvin, ready to hurl a big snowball right at her.
“I see you Calvin”, Suzy warns “and you’d better not throw that snowball, I’m posting my letter to Santa right now.”
“Is the envelope already sealed” Calvin shouts back, the snowball in his hand set to be launched.
“Yes,” Suzy answers, “but I could write P.S. on the back”
“Do you have a Pen?” comes the reply.
“As a matter of fact I do” answers Suzy.
The chastened Calvin sadly drops the snowball as the triumphant Suzy walks away.
“I bet she’s bluffing,” Calvin thinks; “but this is not the time of year to tempt fate.”
Today we begin our four-week pilgrimage to Bethlehem and the feast of the birth of our saviour. But today’s Gospel is hardly filled with Christmas cheer. Jesus warns us in terrifying images, that the time we have; which we often take for granted, is precious and limited, that this earth and everything about it will one day be no more. God gives us this lifetime in order that we might discover God and come to know God in the love of others and the goodness of this world. Every day is an Advent of hope, expectation and preparation. An Advent that is, as Calvin realises, “not a time to tempt fate” but to seek the ways of God in all things.
These four weeks of Advent are a microcosm of the Advent that is the very essence of our lives as Christians: to be ready to “stand before the Son of Man” through lives of love, mercy and justice.