I didn't know what Advent meant until after we became Catholic. I'd heard of it, just like I'd heard of Lent, or of "being confirmed" but I didn't know what it was, when it was, or what it was for. My church of origin celebrated only two holidays - Christmas and Easter - and followed no calendar of any kind. The pastor preached on whatever he wanted to. Sure, we sang Christmas carols (I didn't know there were Advent carols!) and Easter hymns. But other than those two dates there was no set season, no time of year when we got READY for a big holiday.
It turned out Advent is pretty cool. And because I am one of the lucky women in this world who has had a baby at Christmas, it is an even more special time of year for me.
The first Sunday of Advent is the beginning of the Church Year. There are four Sundays in Advent. During that time we get ready for 1)the first Advent, the birth of Jesus Christ, and 2) we get ready for the Second Advent, which will be the Second Coming of Christ. One of those things has already happened in history, and we prepare to celebrate it in a BIG WAY. The other is yet to happen, and we are reminded to be preparing for it EVERY DAY. Advent is the time we GET READY.
During Advent we concentrate our thoughts on anticipating the Incarnation of Christ. We hear the Old Testament prophets pronouncing the future day when God becomes Man. And it happened! God became a fetus, lived in Mary's uterus, was born the usual way...blood, mess, and celebration. Think about it! God loves us enough to take on our humanity, to be little and weak and needy. It is one of the foundational beliefs of Christianity. So, we prepare our hearts anew every year by pondering and praying this mystery. We remember the miracle of the Virgin Birth of our Lord. We ponder the Divinity in a seven-pound baby. It's a mystery - one of those things our little brains can barely absorb. And it is beautiful, and worth anticipating with joy, with hope, and with mercy towards others. Like we clean our physical house top to bottom before we have guests, we take stock of our inner home - and ask God to prepare us.
My daughter was born on December 24th. I remember those last few weeks. What would my baby be like? What would the birth be like? We made sure we had everything we needed. Diapers neatly folded. Crib made up and ready. Baby clothes clean. Hospital bag ready to go out the door. We prepared not only our home, but our hearts as well.
During this first week of Advent, let's work on preparing our hearts for Jesus. It's easy to get distracted by shopping and menu-planning and making sure our house and tree twinkle just right. Let's make sure our hearts are twinkling with anticipatory joy and love on the inside! Let's make sure we get to confession - to clean all the corners so we'll be unencumbered when the Savior comes. Spend a little bit of time with Mary - getting ready for the birth, the wonder, the mystery of Immanuel - God with us.
Advent puts us in the right frame of mind to receive Jesus into our hearts and lives all over again, and to be prepared when He comes for us, either at the end of Time, or at the end of our life. One way or the other, we WILL meet Him. Get ready!
I am a Catholic wife, mom and grandma. In 1995, after Bible college and a few years as an Evangelical Missionary, I was received into the Church at the Easter Vigil. These are my personal musings on Scripture, prayer, and living close to Jesus.