First Sunday of Advent
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves;
Men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved; And then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand. And he spoke to them in a similitude. See the fig tree, and all the trees: When they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh;
So you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away, till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. And take heed to yourselves, lest perhaps your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly. For as a snare shall it come upon all that sit upon the face of the whole earth.
Watch ye, therefore, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of man.
As another year in the cycle of the Church's time in this world ends and another one begins today, we are reminded from the words of Our Lord that the time of His second Advent, which many believe we are currently living in (recall that God's time and our own are not measured in the same way), will be no picnic. The Lord's first coming and the Advent of the world in the era of Grace was one of humility. The Second Coming will be one of power and glory to be preceeded by great tribulation in this world. This period of pain is not the result of the desire by the Lord to inflict suffering on humanity, but rather of man's own choice of sinfulness and inhumanity to one another.
Why, then, would the Church choose one of the most dire passages of the New Testament not only to kick off the Liturgical Year, but also to begin the season in which we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate the Incarnation? Perhaps it is to remind us that as the Lord was born in a stable and lay in a feeding trough on His first night, we, too, are born in strife and destined through our decision to follow Christ to have it just a bit rough. Following Christ in these times isn't something that is meant to be a walk in the park. In the rush of shopping and preparing for Christmas, we need to be reminded in a very thorough way that the purpose of the first Coming of Christ was to pave the way for the Second.