The Church year is celebrated with different seasons: Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, Pentecost. This weekend, we begin the Season of Advent: four weeks before Christmas. The two seasons are related but distinct.

Advent is NOT Christmas; Advent is the beginning of the Church year because it celebrates the beginning of our Church life – the time when Jesus is expected, in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Advent prepares us for Christmas.  While Christmas commemorates Christ’s physical entrance into our world, Advent gets us ready for both the physical and spiritual presence of the Son of God with us, “Emmanuel.”  Advent is a season of hope-filled waiting and expectation, a holy season.  These four weeks are an invitation to pause in our busy lives and pray.

During Advent, we speak of the comings of Christ: into history (expectation of birth); in mystery of everyday, in one another; and in majesty, at the end of time, our final judgment and reunion with God.  Advent is a time to get our homes/hearts ready. That is why the scripture readings of the season set a tone of anticipation.

This weekend, for example, we hear from the prophet Jeremiah, hundreds of years before Christ’s birth:

The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise
I made to the house of Israel and Judah.
In those days, in that time,
I will raise up for David a just shoot;
he shall do what is right and just in the land.

We also hear from St. Paul in his first Letter to the Thessalonians:

Strengthen your hearts,
to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father
at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.

We finally hear from St. Luke’s Gospel:

Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.

Advent is a special time and a special season for us, as Christians, to do what is right as we wait for the Lord Jesus in all his comings. Together, then, let us use these four weeks not just to focus on all the trappings that Christmas holidays put before us by the world, but on Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, the Messiah, Emmanuel, who comes in human flesh to draw us to himself.