|Advent Wreath with one candle lit to show that it is the first Sunday/week of Advent|
So, today marks the start of Advent. Many people see Advent just as the 'run up' to Christmas, but we (the church) know that Advent is a season itself. A season of joyful anticipation for the birth of Christ Jesus Our Lord.
For many people today the only things associated with Advent are Advent Calendars and preparing for Christmas (physically not spiritually). Why? Is it because people don't understand Advent? Or is it because they don't want to? In my opinion, and you are all entitled to your own, it is the latter. People today don't want to have anything religious about Advent. In my opinion Advent Calendars were the worst things ever invented! I mean how can you prepare yourself (spiritually) for the birth of Christ Jesus Our Lord when all that is on your mind is what shape the next chocolate is going to be in your Advent Calendar?
The Advent Wreath. Three candles are purple, symbolizing penance, preparation, and sacrifice; the pink candle symbolizes the same but highlights the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, when we rejoice because our preparation is now half-way finished.
So, what is the meaning behind the First Sunday of Advent? Advent is divided into two parts. The first part begins on the First Sunday and ends on December 16th, and the second part begins on December 17th and ends on December 24th. This division is important for understanding the significance of Advent preparations. Some of the scriptural readings from the Sundays of Advent, as well as the two Advent prefaces, will serve as guides to prepare us for the coming of our Lord-past, present, and future. The preface is the prayer said or sung by the priest at Mass immediately before the congregation responds with the "Holy, Holy, Holy." During Advent, we will primarily hear two prefaces, one for each of the two parts of the liturgical season.
For the first part of Advent, the emphasis is on the Second Coming of the Lord. The first Advent preface, used during the first part of Advent, recalls our Lord's first coming at His birth over two millennia ago, but more heavily stresses His Second Coming. We are told that the Son of God humbled Himself to come among us as a man(Advent Preface I). But as quickly as we remember the Christ who has already come, this first preface points to the Christ who will come again. For, we watch for the day, hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours when Christ our Lord will come again in His glory (Advent Preface I). By recalling the first coming of Christ, the coming that we will joyfully celebrate at Christmas, we gain confidence that Christ has not abandoned us but will come again.
The readings for this First Sunday of Advent show us the way to recognize Him who continuously comes. The Gospel of the First Sunday implores us: Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. For at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come (Mt 24:42, 44).
So, during Advent let us ask God to help us prepare ourselves spiritually for the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.