We enter into the season of Advent. It is the beginning of a new year within the Church's liturgical calendar. It is a time of preparation for Christmas, with that preparation sometimes dominated by shopping, wrapping gifts, baking and cooking, sending Christmas cards, gathering for parties. From the Church's perspective, Advent is a time of preparation: quieting our hearts, eagerly anticipating the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hope, peace, joy, and love traditionally have been connected to this season. Of course, I suspect that Advent and Christmas may look slightly differently this year.
Looking at the season of Advent from a theological and liturgical perspective, we begin from the fact that Advent meaning “coming” or “arrival.” The first two Sundays and weeks of Advent look toward the future: the second coming of Christ. Jesus promises and foretells that He will return again. He promises it before ascending back into Heaven. He alludes to it in multiple parables and in His teaching, as we heard in last week's gospel passage from Matthew 25. Perhaps we are inclined to forget about Jesus' second coming or believe that it will not happen anytime soon, definitely not in our lifetime. At the same time, maybe the end of the world is at the forefront of our minds in a time of upheaval.
No matter our mentality on the second coming of Christ, the reality is that He will return again, and we need to be prepared. Today is the time to repent and turn away from our sins. Today is the time to grow in faith, hope, love, virtue, and holiness. Now is the time to be reconciled with God and to seek reconciliation with others. Today is the time to let go of grudges, bitterness, and resentment. Today is the time show mercy and engage in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Today is the day to tell each other we love them. Today is the time to put on the mind of Christ and see reality through His eyes.
Later in Advent, we focus on the first coming of Christ: His nativity (birth) in Bethlehem. Our readings will focus on everything leading up to Jesus' birth. God had prepared carefully many people to play a role in the nativity of His Son into the world. The prophets, especially, Isaiah, provided hope for a suffering people, foretelling of a Savior to set them free from their enemies. John the Baptist is born of Zechariah and Elizabeth and will prepare the people of Israel for the coming of Jesus. The Archangel Gabriel appeared separately to Mary and Joseph, preparing them to be Jesus' parents. Everything happened in a specific time and place, in accordance with God's designs. It was not a “fly by the seat of our pants” type of plan. This is a reminder to us to spiritually prepare deliberately and carefully for the Nativity of Jesus Christ. As we continue to approach Christmas, we will discuss God's plan for human history and why He sent His Son.
We are saints under construction, eagerly anticipating the coming of Christ by welcoming others into our lives. Have a great week!