Have you ever heard the story of the ant and the grasshopper? It tells the tale of a grasshopper that has spent the summer singing and so is not prepared when winter comes, whereas the ant has been working hard all summer and has stored up enough food for winter. Like many of Aesop’s Fables, it has a stark moral lesson, in this case about the virtue of hard work and being prepared for the future.
Advent is about looking forward to Christmas and our celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is a special time of preparation to welcome him anew into our lives. But today’s readings remind us that Advent is also about looking ahead to another time, the second and final coming of Jesus at the end of time. ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin word ‘adventus’ meaning ‘coming’. The problem, of course, is that we have no idea when this will happen. Unlike the ant and the grasshopper, we have no way of knowing when the seasons will change. We don’t even know when the sun will set on our own individual lives. All we can do is to be prepared and to ‘stay awake’ – to live now in such a way that when we meet Jesus, we will be ready. This readiness is less a practical skill than a condition, or a way of life. Look at how St Paul describes it: he talks about increasing our love for one another, and continually making progress in living the life that God wants. That is how we store up treasures here on earth to make sure we are ready for the heavenly things to come.