A new year has begun – liturgically speaking. The First Sunday of Advent ushers in the start of a new cycle of scripture readings. This liturgical year we will hear the story of Jesus’ life primarily from the Gospel of Matthew. In last week’s article, I drew out some of the primary themes of Matthew’s gospel. So let us look now at the four weeks of Advent.
Advent has a two-fold character to it. It is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. My experience is that most of us spend a lot of time and energy preparing for the celebration of the First Coming of Jesus in our Christmas celebrations. But it’s hard to do much preparing for the Second Coming of Jesus during Advent because our culture, marketing, and commercialization focus all our attention on the celebration of Christmas. The selection of our scripture readings for the first, second, and third Sundays of Advent turn our attention to the Second Coming of Jesus. It isn’t until the Fourth Sunday of Advent that our thoughts are turned to Christmas.
On the First Sunday of Advent, the prophet Isaiah turns our thoughts to “in the day’s to come”……a vision of a peaceful world where there will be no more war. That will be a reality when Jesus returns. In the gospel, Jesus gives a warning about the end of time. On the Second Sunday of Advent, Isaiah continues his vision of a world where everything is in harmony –don’t we long for the day! In the gospel, we meet John the Baptist who calls us to repentance. On the Third Sunday of Advent, Isaiah continues his vision of a world where healing will take place – and don’t we need that!! The gospel tells a story of John in prison, Jesus already born and doing miraculous things. It isn’t until the Fourth Sunday of Advent that we get to the Christmas theme.
I know it’s difficult with all the details of getting ready for Christmas….the shopping, decorating, cooking, cleaning etc. but I urge you in your interior life to take the slow movement toward Christmas that our Advent readings do to think and pray about the Second Coming of Christ. Then perhaps, when the Church’s Christmas Season comes (December 25 through January 12) you will have a little more energy to celebrate the First Coming of Jesus as the Church does, and not end your Christmas celebration as the commercial world does on December 26th!
Have a blessed Advent!