Here at ACNM, we’re quite excited about Advent. And we all should be! I love Advent because it is a promise, and similtaneously a promise fulfilled. Christ is coming. Christ has come, and Christ will come again, and we’re so grateful of that fact that the Church celebrates it every year with joy and anticipation.
Rita’s post earlier this week introduced us to the Third Edition of the Roman Missal that has been implemented (and the opportunity it gives us to learn more about our Catholic heritage), and Chris encouraged us to use the improved words as an chance to reflect on improvements needed in our personal lives as well. Through it all, Advent is at the heart the possibility for transformation.
“What’s the big deal about Advent anyway?”
If you’ve ever seen or read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol then you’re familiar with the image of a man being guided through instances of his life from an outside (third person) perspective. I think that’s the perfect analogy for Advent (the 4 weeks before Christmas). We get to reflect on Joseph and Mary’s arduous journey, Jesus’ humble birth in a manger, the magi’s faithful journey, all of it. However, we are not alone. Jesus is with us, here and now, as we reflect on His past. And He is so joyful that we are.
To reflect on the appalling conditions of the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, and to know that my salvation is born out of it, is bewildering, and yet I love Him more for it. I love God for loving all of us so much that this is the way He chose to send us His only begotten son.
I’m getting ahead of myself. We celebrate Christ’s birth during Christmas. During Advent, we celebrate the promise of Christ’s birth. Two thousand and eleven years ago, Mary is pregnant. She show knows how special her babe-to-come is (for generations prophets have foretold of it) but I can’t imagine she, or Joseph, knows exactly what their lives as parents of the Messiah will be like. Will he fit in with other children? Will he be healthy? Will he be kind? For them, only time will tell these things. They know what the prophecies say: salvation. But they don’t yet know how or when this will come to be. It’s a beautiful time in the history of the world.
“Why is Advent the perfect staging ground for renewal?”
Better than any New Year’s resolution we could make to ourselves, Advent is the time to make a transformation in Christ. It is a time of hope, peace, joy and love. As we reflect on Jesus’ beginnings, we ought reflect on what it means to be Christian by reflecting on who Christ is. God’s most precious gift to us was His only begotten son, a tangible being who is fully man and fully God. We communicate with Him, we receive Him through Communion, we adore His full presence in the Eucharist and we celebrate His birth, life, and death on Earth.
During Advent we make present the past expectancy for the Messiah and share in the centuries long preparation. By doing so, we call to mind another promise – that of Jesus’ second coming (CCC 524). Jesus’ birth gives us the means to know Him. It is His second coming that promises to bring eternal life.
To know Him and to love Him is to keep His commandments (Jn 15:10). Because Advent is a special time of reflection and hope, we can improve ourselves in a manner that helps us grow closer to God. Additionally, since Jesus is with us in this glorious cause, any changes we make that improves our worthiness of His praise shall most certainly bear fruit.
We can strengthen our bodies with which to work. We can increase in discipline in our studies with which to better evangelize. We can grow in our vocations with which to serve the Lord. We can be better stewards of our money with which to help others. We can rid ourselves of vices or disorganization with which to be more productive.
Anything and everything that makes us a better version of ourselves, while done in a Christ-centered manner, has great potential. Thankfully, we have Advent to help us realize it.