Today there’s a change in color in the liturgy to celebrate a change of season. It’s not just that the weather is getting colder: today we begin a new season in the liturgical year, and a new liturgical year. Yesterday, the end of a liturgical year, symbolized the end of time when Christ will come to definitively overthrow sin and death so that we can live forever with him and everyone we love. Last Sunday we celebrated that by celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King.
This Sunday we are beginning the season of Advent. “Advent” means “coming.” Last Sunday we celebrated the Second Coming of Christ, which is going to come in the future. During Advent we prepare to celebrate the First Coming of Christ: Christ’s first coming happened on Christmas. Actually, it happened at the Annunciation, which was when he became man, which is why it is also called the feast of the Incarnation, but he was born at Christmas, which is also called the feast of the Nativity. During the liturgical year we celebrate all the mysteries of Christ’s life, from the beginning of time, even before he became man and came to earth, until the end of time, when he will return in glory. We also celebrate the whole history of salvation during the liturgical year. In Advent we celebrate the start of the history of salvation from the beginning, but before Christ’s First Coming to earth at the Incarnation.
In today’s Gospel Jesus is talking about his Second Coming, but the question for both Comings of Christ is the same question: Are you ready? How do you answer that question? It’s going to influence how you live Advent a lot. Is it “finally!”? Is it “yeah, right…”? Is it “yikes”? Those answers are not answers to what gifts you’re going to get, what family members you’re going to see, or how much you’re going to eat: they’re answers to how you are getting ready for Christ’s coming at Christmas.
The Gospel today reminds us that he is coming at an unexpected moment and an unexpected way. For the Israelites, that was nothing new. They didn’t imagine that the Messiah, the Savior of the World, would come in such an unexpected way: as a little baby in a manger. What’s your response to the Savior of the World coming as a little baby and lying in a manger? Maybe the question “Are you ready?” takes on a different light when you consider how he is coming. For the Israelites, the coming of the Messiah was going to be at the end of time: he was coming to defeat all their enemies and clean house. But then he came as a little baby, way ahead of schedule. How did they respond? Some saw a little baby in a manger and said, “he’s not the Messiah, come on….” Others didn’t even believe in a Messiah to begin with, and didn’t change their opinion: “yeah, sure, the Savior of the World…”
Christians are often on the fence: Some have the same attitude as the Israelites and the skeptics, but others are saying, “yikes,” because the Second Coming is all they have on their mind, and they know they’re not ready. At Christmas we’ll be celebrating the fact that God is with us as one of us. We have to do our part, we have to change our lives, but helped by him, sorry for our sins, but joyful in knowing he is near, ready to save us from them.
Let’s get ready for Christ’s coming by rejoicing. The Lord is giving you a whole liturgical season – three weeks — to reflect on what you’ve done and could have done better so that he can help you draw closer to him. Ask him to help you keep him in the center of your preparation for Christmas. Christmas is going to be a time for family, friends, and rest, but it is also a time for rejoicing, because the Savior of the World, our Savior, is going to be born. Let’s live Advent with a spirit of gratitude, contrition, and joyous expectation.
Readings: Jeremiah 33:14–16; Psalm 25:4–5, 8–10, 14; 1 Thessalonians 3:12–4:2; Luke 21:25–28, 34–36. See also 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday and 34th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.