The Oft-Forgotten Point of Advent

Advent is not about the Joy of Christmas. It's about preparing for something much bigger than a holiday.

We often hear that Advent is about the Joy of Christmas or welcoming the light of Jesus into the world. But while those things are partially true, they don’t represent what Advent is ultimately about.   Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.” 

It does not mean “light” or “joy.” So what is the “coming” that we’re supposed to be reflecting on?

Quite simply—and perhaps surprisingly for some—Advent is about the preparation for Jesus’ second coming through the commemoration of his first coming at Christmas. In remembering that Jesus came to us at Christmas, we remember to prepare for his second coming, when he will judge the living and the dead. That’s why many of the Advent Mass readings are about judgment and end times.

“Be watchful, praying always that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place and to stand before the Son of man.” 

Luke 21:36

But wait, what about all this joy and cheer that we usually associate with Advent and Christmas? Where does that fit in? During this season, we focus on the coming of Jesus from three different perspectives: The physical nativity in Bethlehem, reception of Christ in our hearts, and ultimately (and perhaps most importantly), we recall Jesus’ promise that he will come again to judge the living and the dead. All of these are occasions for joy.

We have joy as we commemorate Jesus’ birth, remembering that “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son” to suffer and die for us. We maintain this joyful attitude, long after Advent and Christmas, by keeping the light of God alive in our hearts and in our lives by remembering to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” Even our anticipation and preparation for Christ’s second coming is cause for Joy because the second coming of Christ will be the resurrection, the glorification of our bodies, and if we have lived holy lives, a final return to Heaven.

It’s true, though, that the idea of Jesus coming to judge us can make us uncomfortable, even perhaps a little worried, depending on how we are living our lives. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Because right now, we are living in a period of Mercy—a period of time when we’re able to take full advantage of the Mercy of God and His grace. Once Jesus comes again, the period of Mercy comes to a close, and the time of judgment and glory arrives. So don’t be nervous. Be joyful, be hopeful, and remember that Advent reminds us to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Here are some ways for us all to prepare.

  • Go to Confession once or twice during this season of preparation. No one is so holy that they have nothing to confess over the course of an Advent season. And turning away from sin is impossible without the “great reset” effect that Confession has. Confessions are heard at Our Lady of Grace on Saturdays from 11-12 am or by appointment.
  • Pray a little more frequently, for a little longer, and more fervently. How can we let Jesus into our hearts and lives if we hardly ever talk to him? One way to bolster your prayer life might be to attend Holy Hour on Wednesdays at 7:30. Or spend a little quiet time in Church before or after mass, even if it’s just 15 minutes.
  • Attend mass at least every week. Additionally, if you’re able to, try to commit to coming to mass on a weekday from time to time. The more you receive the Eucharist, the more you become like Jesus.
  • Read and reflect on the Gospels regularly. One way of doing that is to pay careful attention to the Gospel reading during mass, perhaps jot down some notes, and reflect on that Gospel reading for 15 minutes after mass. No need to rush home. Spend some time with Jesus as you contemplate what He taught you in that day’s Gospel reading. 

The Church helps us during this season of preparation for the coming of the Lord. You’re never alone. Preparation for the coming (or the second coming) of the Lord is about action, not just anxious anticipation. So act. And be at peace.

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