First Sunday of Advent - 2022

Kathleen A. Cahalan 

Romans 13:11-14

Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

Many years ago, I had a difficult relationship with a family member, and I sought the help of a counselor. As I described how I felt when I was with this person, the counselor suggested that I imagine wearing a suit of armor when I talked with her. The armor would protect me from her comments that hurt me. So, when I was around her, I put on my armor, nodded politely, and got away quickly.

It was helpful for a while. And then I heard Paul speak about this other kind of armor. I realized that I was wearing an armor to protect my feelings. He was inviting me to put on an armor of light. What was I doing to reflect the light of Christ to this person? I was so caught up in my anger and resentment that my suit of armor had become self-protection that did not allow forgiveness or love to flow out from my heart

What kind of darkness do we need to protect our hearts from? Are their thoughts that cause our anger, fear, or wrongful desire to flare up? I cannot watch certain TV news stations, or I get angry; or watch violent movies, and then see the images in my dreams about them; or sit with gossipers because then I join in too easily. And if I surf the internet, I end up buying stuff I don’t need. And that’s just the beginning. What appears as a mindless or innocent act, becomes more powerful over time, and destructive of my inner life. I cannot pray or discern, and I certainly cannot love and see the needs of others.

What kind of armor is the Lord Jesus Christ? Monastics who lived in the desert in early Christianity, developed a practice called “guard of the heart.” It was a kind of armor that protected them from thoughts, desires, or intentions that led them away from Christ and toward evil. They sought to pray unceasingly and to have a pure heart so they could see God.

Unfortunately, my armor turned out to be too self-serving in this instance. I needed to attend to the rivalry and jealousy that had sewn into my heart. And the light of Christ was not shining through me to others. This Advent I want to guard my heart against those thoughts that lead to darkness and dissipation, and put on the armor of Christ so that his light might shine in my speech and actions, especially toward those I find so difficult to love and serve.