Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Advent, therefore, is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating the revelation of God in Christ, whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. Reconciliation to God is a process in which we now participate; its consummation is something which we anticipate. Scripture readings for Advent will reflect this emphasis on the Second Advent, including themes of accountability for faithfulness at the coming of Jesus, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life.
In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and communities: We affirm that Christ has come, that he is present in the world today, and that he will come again in power. Our acknowledgment of this “mystery of faith” (as we call it at Mass) gives us a basis for holy living, arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times,” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people.
Advent, then, is marked by a spirit of hope. It is our Christian hope (however faint at times) that God (however distant he sometimes seems) will bring to the world a King who will rule with truth and righteousness and judgment; because of this judgment, Advent is a time of preparation that is marked by prayer. While Lent is characterized by fasting and a spirit of penitence, Advent’s prayers are prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers of submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers from those walking in darkness, but who are awaiting a great light.
Here is a great Advent prayer I found, online: O God, our loving Father, help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and the worship of the Wise Men.
May Christmas morning make us happy to be your children, and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.