18 REFLECTION 12
Dear My Brothers and Sisters In Christ,
Advent Means Getting Ready
Nobody likes to wait, but we all like to get ready. Advent is sometimes understood as a waiting period – waiting for Christmas. From that point of view, this waiting period between Advent and Christmas is also supposed to make us think deeply about another waiting period. The one between now and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, who will bring history to its fulfillment, judge the living and the dead, and put a definitive end to evil.
But is Advent really just a waiting period? Is human history just a waiting period, an undisclosed number of centuries in which we wait for the Second Coming to happen? No. They are more than waiting periods; they are getting-ready periods.
Advent is a liturgical season, a period of time in which the Church surrounds us with reminders of the greatest event in the whole history of the universe: the incarnation of the Son of God, who came to earth to be our Savior. The Church gives us these reminders to help us get our souls ready to receive the special graces God wants to give us as we celebrate that event this year, in the "right now" of our lives. And those same reminders are also meant to spark a personal examination of conscience. And if in that examination we notice any sinful or self-centered tendencies, habits, or activities, Advent is the time to get rid of them. That's how we get ready for our Lord’s Second Coming, which will occur either at our personal death, or at the end of history, whichever happens first. These four weeks aren’t about waiting; they are about getting ready.
So Advent is about getting ready, not just waiting around. And since it's about getting ready for two things, there are at least two things we should do in order to get ready.
First, we need to get ready for this year's celebration of Christmas, the coming of our Savior to earth. In every liturgical season, God has special graces in store for us. One reason the Church uses liturgical seasons is precisely to make us aware that God wants to give us these special graces. We don't know ahead of time what they will be. It could be a deeper insight into the meaning of our existence and a greater peace of mind. It could be an experience of forgiveness and mercy. It could be an infusion of spiritual strength to take a step we have long wanted to take, but have been afraid to. God knows what he wants to give us this Christmas; we just have to get ready to receive it. And that means doing what the Church does, finding ways to think more frequently and deeply about God's love and God's plan of salvation.
The second thing we are getting ready for is the end of history, the final judgment. This means turning away from our sins, repenting, and making a fresh start on the path of following Christ's teaching and example. This is why we wear purple or midnight-blue vestments during Advent, as a penitential sign. And of course, there is simply no better way to do this than by preparing and having a good confession. The sacrament of reconciliation is the perfect method to get ready for the Second Coming.
Advent is not just about waiting around; it's about getting ready. So let's get ready - starting right now