Every year before Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, I sit in the pew waiting for the excitement of the birth of the Christ Child. The anticipation builds until the fanfare of trumpets announces the great “Joy to the World, our Savior’s come!” the great climax of the Advent Season. But, what IS Advent? What does it mean?
The Season of Advent, the 4 week period before Christmas, is a season of preparation, and the beginning of the church year. Each of the four Sundays mark a step closer to the Christmas celebration. Many people think of Advent as the four weeks of countdown, during which a candle is lit on the Advent wreath each Sunday, a purple candle representing each Sunday until the Third Sunday, which is known as Gaudate Sunday. But Advent is SO much more than that!
The Advent season is a time of examining how we have been living as a follower of Jesus. As well, it is a time of reflection. I have learned that Advent is a time of charity and love. I do not mean we just throw a couple quarters in the Salvation Army kettles as we pass by when Christmas shopping because we feel guilty if we do not, but it is a season of giving of ourselves. Christ has told us that we are called to love our neighbor unconditionally. Don’t you think the beginning of the church year is a good place to start doing so?
In The Gospel reading for today, Jesus is sharing with his disciples that they will not know when the Lord will return. “…you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.” (Mark 13:35) One might wonder why the Gospel for this Sunday was chosen, since it refers to the Second Coming instead of the birth of the Savior. The message of Advent is not just about being ready for that one time and final event, but is also about always being ready when called upon in time of need.
As children, this message was shown to us in a different way. Throughout the “commercialized” Christmas season, which has, in many ways, seemingly replaced Advent, there are many carols and other songs about Christmas. When we read the Gospel for today, we find something very familiar to one of the most classic children’s Christmas songs, “Santa’s Coming to Town.”
“He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been good or bad
So be good for goodness sake!
Ohh! You better watch out!”
Yes, the song is about a jolly, chubby old man in a red suit, but the message of Jesus is definitely in the song. Not everyone has children, but all of us once were, and we can be children at heart. We KNOW this song! We can think of this catchy song to remind us of what Jesus is saying what we should be doing during the Advent season. Let us remember that that we do “not know when the Lord of the house is coming,” and that we should always and in every way, be prepared for the coming of the king, far before we sing “Joy to the World” on Christmas morning.