We’ve seen our fair share of ‘green’ all about the church. From the altar cloth to hanging banners as well as the vestments I wear. It’s all part and parcel to the particular season of the Church year. You see, way back on June 8 when we celebrated Pentecost, from the Sunday that followed, that is, June 15 to last week’s feast of Christ the King, we have been in what is called “Sundays after Pentecost.” Some refer to this extended period as “Ordinary Time.” Both are acceptable. Now, however, we start anew.
While the calendar still has a full month to go before we usher in a new year, the Church year starts anew on the first weekend of Advent. This is what we are to about to celebrate this weekend. Down comes the green and up goes the royal blues and purples. The Advent Wreath is to be built by our very selves, as we place evergreen boughs into the wreath. Each week we shall light a candle: Weeks one and two we light beautiful, blue candles. Week three we light the radiant rose candle as we commemorate that Sunday we call Gaudete, taken from the Latin for “rejoice.” The forth and last Sunday of Advent we light the last of the blue candles. In a few days time, we ring the bells and raise our voices in song and prayer for Jesus is born to us!
But, just what is Advent? Well, let’s see, shall we: Advent is a “Church Season” which refers to a time of waiting and preparation for the great and miraculous feast of the Nativity of Jesus, born to the young, virgin Mary and her soon to be husband Joseph. Advent, in its most purest of forms comes from the Latin word, “coming.” The Latin word “adventus” from which comes the term Advent, is roughly translated from the Greek word “parousia,” which means “official visit, royal presence,” yet liturgically speaking, (Church talk) refers to the Second Coming of Jesus.
So, wait a minute…we’re celebrating the birth of Christ. Yet, from ancient times and the translations of both the Greek and Latin and from a theological point of view, we’re anticipating and preparing for Jesus’ return to earth? His second coming? That is right. That is so. It may not be very “Christmas-like,” but that is what Advent truly and historically signifies and represents.
You see my friends, the Feast of Christmas is our commemoration of Jesus’ birth for which we rejoice and celebrate. It’s our Savior’s birthday and we give thanks for His coming into our world as one of us; a human being. What Advent reminds us of is that Jesus is to come again and we are to be prepared for His arrival. I admit, that’s an awful lot of technical terminology but certainly material we understand and about which we need to be reminded. Simply put: Jesus is coming again. Are we ready for His return?
So, my sisters and brothers, we begin this four-week journey with anxious and eager hearts at the ready to announce that Jesus is born! While we rejoice, let us be ever-vigilant and ready for, as Sacred Scripture reminds us, “You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night…to the time when we must give up our account, we know it not, nor is it needful that we should. The coming of Christ will be a great surprise.” (1Thessalonian 5:2.) In spite of this rather alarming message, there is a great deal for which we are to celebrate these four weeks. It is my prayer and my hope that as we prepare our homes with festive decor and seasonal ornamentation, more importantly, we are preparing our hearts and souls for Jesus’ return. This is the true message and meaning of Advent. The Blessed Mary said yes to the angel…what is our response to Jesus?