In the Advent season, people are called to reflect more deeply on what Christmas is all about and to reflect on the gift of life, the gift of faith, and the gift of love. It is a time of preparation – people preparing their hearts for the coming of Christ, and to welcome his presence into their lives.
The faith-filled season of Advent, which began on Sunday, November 28 and ends Friday, December 24, in the Catholic Church, is a period of preparation, extending over the four Sundays before Christmas.
Advent refers to the coming of Christ. The coming includes three references: the celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas; the coming of Christ in people’s lives through grace and the Sacrament of Holy Communion; and Christ’s second coming at the end of time. With that in mind, believers’ preparations should have all three comings in mind, and people should prepare their souls to receive Christ worthily.
Monsignor Alfred Culmer, in a previous Advent sermon, encouraged people to let Christ be at the heart of all they do at Christmas. He said the faithful are reminded that the time of fulfillment is at hand, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, that the mystery hidden is revealed and that God works the impossible.
The history of Advent was originally a kind of time of preparation and fasting for people, and had more of a feel of Lent to it. Jumping forward to the present day, the meaning of Advent is different – it now focuses on the birth of Jesus, and families place an Advent wreath in their home.
The spirit of Advent is to be ready each Christmas to receive Christ in your life, in the here and now, in a new and deeper way. It is the beginning of the church’s liturgical year, and the season encompassing the four Sundays and weekdays leading up to the celebration of Christmas.
During the final days of Advent, December 17-24, the focus is on preparation for the celebrations of the Nativity of the Lord at Christmas.
Advent devotions, including the Advent wreath, remind people of the meaning of the season. The Advent calendar helps people to fully enter into the season with daily activity and prayer suggestions to prepare themselves spiritually for the birth of Jesus Christ.
According to Culmer, in a previous sermon, what God offers to His people, time and again, is the gift of His love, manifested in His only son. And that on the fourth Sunday of Advent, the mystery hidden is revealed, and God works the impossible.
“In Mary, we see the audacity of hope and depths of faith,” he said. “She believed and she trusted that the word spoken to her by the angel would be fulfilled.”
With Christmas, there is also the expectation that there will be gifts under the tree, lavish meals to be had, celebrations with families and friends, but Culmer has also said that people should always remember to reflect on the gift of life, the gift of faith and the gift of love, which encompass the Advent season.
“It is when we serve others that we encounter Jesus Christ. It is when we give ourselves in love that we find that we are loved. It is in the simple and ordinary that we find the powerful light of God,” he said in a previous sermon.
He urged living the days of Advent, waiting, serving, loving, and trusting that the Lord is indeed transforming lives in Jesus Christ, the gift of God.
“Jesus is our Christmas gift from God. He is our gift every day from God – let us, in turn, share that gift with others.”