Advent is upon us, a season meaning “arrival.” Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on December 25th. These four weeks prior to Christmas are set aside to help us prepare for the coming of Jesus. Which coming? Both his birth and his return.
The birth of Jesus occurred over 2,000 years ago as both an historical event and a spiritual one. Israel had been preparing and waiting for this event for a very, very long time. The coming of the Savior was proclaimed to Adam, to David and to many prophets in between. Isaiah, the prophet who most wrote about Jesus’ coming, lived 500 years prior to His birth. That’s a long time to prepare! But in many ways Jesus’ coming did not match the expectations of the Jews, and few recognized him as the promised Savior.
But the first Sunday in Advent reminds us that there is also a second coming of Jesus: either at the end of the world, or at the end of our life on earth. Often we think these events are too far in the future to waste time thinking about or preparing for at this time. But Advent offers a spiritual wake up call. Too often we get caught up in all the things we “have to do” to celebrate Christmas, but miss the chance to prepare for meeting Christ. If you knew Christ was coming for you on December 25th, how would your preparation be different than if you were merely preparing to celebrate His first coming?
This year we have almost 4 full weeks to prepare for Jesus. The waiting does not have to be an empty time to fill with gift buying and decorating. Reading the Bible, praying the Rosary, or just sitting in silence before God for 10 minutes each day are ways to open our heart to His coming. Using an Advent wreath to pray is both a mental action and a physical one as we light the candle(s) each day and pause to reflect on prophetic writings about the coming of the Savior. Our time spent in prayer can be our gift to Jesus. Celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation helps to remove the tumbleweeds and rocks in the desert of our hearts to “…prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway of our God!” (Isaiah 40:3) While we receive God’s mercy in this sacrament, we adorn our souls with the beauty of His grace.
Let us prepare first for Jesus’s second coming so we can celebrate in joy the memorial of His first.