We begin the season of Advent this Sunday to commence our preparation for the birth of our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ. It is a season to prepare ourselves spiritually to welcome Jesus into our lives and our homes. The catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us of a two-fold meaning of Advent: It is the fulfilment of a prolonged ancient longing/expectation, while also gently provoking in us a future longing.
In the first place, the birth of Jesus, is the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy, fulfilling an ancient longing. Through the ages God promised the people of Israel a saviour, through his holy prophets. Generations after generations lived in longing to see the saviour during their lives. It was one prolonged longing awaiting fulfilment. The birth of Jesus, thus is the fulfilment of the ancient promise. “The coming of God’s Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed us to prepare for it over centuries. He makes everything converge on Christ: all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the ‘First Covenant’. He announces Him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel. Moreover, he awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming.” (CCC. 522)
Secondly, Advent invites us to renew our ardent desire for his second coming. “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease.’ (CCC 524)
The second aspect of Advent entails a longing, which is to be lived through a belonging. We are called to belong to Jesus, and to put on Christ, as the second reading this Sunday exhorts us to. We are called not just to live in an anticipated longing for the coming of Jesus, but to grow into a belonging to Jesus. The season of Advent is an occasion to help us cultivate our belonging to our Saviour. The apostle Paul urges the Christians to keep focused on why they accepted Jesus and His good news. They embraced Christianity to merit eternal life, which is a promise and a longing. Paul reminds us that accepting Christ is not the security for eternal life, but being a Christian is. Being a Christian is a lifetime project, of imitating Jesus and living his life. Accepting Christ, as Paul says, means being awake, alert and committed to Jesus and the values of the Gospel. Through our acceptance of Jesus, we are brought out of the dark night of sin, into God’s shining light. Living in the light and being a light is what defines the life of a Christian. That is why Paul invites us to put on Christ. It is not only an invitation, but an obligation. As Christians, we must put on Christ.
This Advent is a call to once again recognise the pilgrim nature of the Church. We are on a journey to our destiny. We live in hope and longing, which is to be converted into a belonging to Jesus. This belonging, Paul recommends, is to be lived by making “no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” It is to be lived by putting on Christ through a life of prayer, self-sacrifice, enhancing our sacramental life and by being faithful to the commandments. We are also called to spiritually reflect upon the values of the world by contrasting them to Christian values. Putting on Christ means being faithful to living out our Christian values in the world today.
This Advent, may our preparation for the coming of our saviour help us to grow in our sense of belonging to Christ and being Christ-like to others. May we “put on Christ” so that we like Paul can claim, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20)
I, the light, have come into the world, so that whoever believes in me need not stay in the dark any more (John 12:46). Believe it or not Advent should not be a time of spend, spend, spend, but a season of light when we prepare ourselves with expectant faith for the coming of Christ, the Light of the World at Christmas. I know it is very difficult but so often we get sucked into worldly ways which means by the time the Christmas season is upon us, we are too exhausted and stressed to actually enjoy the peace it offers.
The literal meaning of Advent is ‘coming’ and it is worth reminding ourselves of the three comings during this season. Firstly we remember and give thanks for Christ’s first coming. Then we look forward with faith to His second coming. Lastly we pray that he may come and fill our lives with the extraordinary light of his love.
Some of us may feel oppressed by the darkness of this world but we must remember that Jesus Christ as the Light of the World is not a symbol but a powerful reality. He is the Light which darkness could not and will never overcome. As you open the windows of your Advent Calendars in the coming days, don’t forget to open your hearts to the Christ Child and become more and more sons and daughters of light.