This time of year is one of my favorites. I love seeing the Christmas decorations on people’s homes, pulling out old, handmade items my children made in years past, and finding some new ornament for Grandchildren. The time leading up to Christmas used to be frantic, with activities atschool, parties to attend, and figuring out family gathering schedules, just to name a few. In those days, even when I attended Mass all during Advent, the candles which were lit each week, were a sign of how far behind I was in my preparation and caused a bit of panic to ensue. Oh what a waste of so many Advent seasons did I experience by not knowing the TRUE meaning of Advent.
As a Catholic, I’ve learned that the Season of Advent allows us to prepare for the coming of Christ in the human form, as well as, preparing our hearts for the second coming of Jesus. Interestingly, the 40 days of Advent, as well as, the number 40 being referenced in many other areas of the Bible, refer to the 40 weeks of gestation of a human child. It takes the symbolic number 40 and associates it with formation, preparation and expected arrival of a notable person or event. When you really think about it, the God of the Universe, the one who made ALL, who is and always will be, comes to us at Christmas in the innocent, humble, dependent form of an infant and allows himself to be taken care of. How much does our God love us to come to us like this? In 1 John 4: 9-11, it says, ” In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.”
In the second half of the meaning of Advent, which I feel is sometimes not emphasized enough, is the second coming of Jesus. The Advent Wreath is a circle, which has no beginning or end: So we call to mind how our lives, here and now, participate in the eternity of Gods plan of salvation and how we hope to share eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. The wreath is made of fresh plant material, because Christ came to give us new life through His passion, death, and resurrection. Preparing ourselves during Advent is similar to the way we prepare ourselves during Lent. We are to offer prayers, penance, and sacrifice in order to be fully ready to receive our Lord at Christmas and to be prepared for His second coming. The candles within the Advent Wreath represent to us the symbols of Penance, Preparation/Prayers and Sacrifice; the pink candle symbolizes the same but highlights the third Sunday of Advent as Gaudete Sunday, when we rejoice because we are now half-way finished with our preparations. As we light the candles, the fire that burns represents the light of Jesus, which can never be extinguished and lights our path to righteousness. Each lit candle shows us the progression of our preparedness and readiness for receiving Our Lord and guides us along our journey of Advent. During the Season of Advent, we have the wonderful feast of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This is sometimes confused by people who think this is about Our Lord (probably because we are concentrating on the season of Christ’s coming); however, this is the feast of the conception of Our Blessed Mother. Mary, who was conceived without sin, in order to bear within her womb, the Savior of the World. Since God has no time constraints, He is able to use the merits of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus to allow Mary to be conceived without original sin. It only makes sense that the Mother of Our Lord had to be without sin in order to bear the Son of God. We read in the Old Testament, Moses built the Tabernacle to house the Holy of Holies ( or God’s Presence) within the Ark of the Covenant. The cloud of the Lord covered the Tabernacle, just as Holy Spirit came upon Mary and the power of the Most High overshadowed her and she would conceive a child. She was the Tabernacle of Our Lord Jesus and had to be without sin to do so. We celebrate this, as well as, her atoning for the sin of Eve, who was looking to become like God by doing what she willed. Mary, on the other hand, accepted the will of God and let it be done unto her. During our Advent preparations we should do well to copy the actions of Mary and allow God to do as He wills in our lives. She is the perfect model of Holiness and we should take the time in our reflections and prayer to ask Her for her intercession in helping us to be more Holy.
As we remember the symbols of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love this Advent and Christmas Season, may you always remember to put Jesus first, others second, and yourselves third, as we turn our lives, worries, anxieties, and hopes over to God and let Him rule this new year of our lives.