Today marks the beginning of the Advent season. History tells us that Advent has been observed since around the fourth century AD. Initially, Advent was seen as a time of preparation, both for new believers to be baptised and for all believers to look forward to Jesus’ return in glory. As time went on, the emphasis on the Second Coming and baptism remained, and a new emphasis on Jesus’ first coming as a baby grew along with it.
Today, it seems that Advent is much more about celebrating Jesus’ first coming rather than anticipating his Second Coming. Still, the Church reminds us to use this time to prepare for Christmas and to let it “renew [our] ardent desire for [Jesus’] second coming” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 524).
So with this double goal of celebration and anticipation in mind, Advent has become a season of hope – hope that the baby born in Bethlehem will return one day and usher in the kingdom of God. Hope is what helps us step out and believe in what we cannot see. Hope is God’s grace to accept that there is a certain amount of mystery to our faith and to still be confident that God can work in our lives. This is not a blind hope, and it’s not all an impossible mystery that we will never understand. In the midst of all the mysteries of our faith, we can still believe because of what we do understand: that God’s Son came to us on Christmas in order to save us from our sins and fill us with his Holy Spirit.
So for the next four weeks, let’s set our hearts on preparing – first, for Christmas, and second, for Jesus’ return in glory. Let’s tell Jesus, “This world is not my permanent home. I long for a heavenly home. I long to be with you forever. Come, Lord Jesus.”