How Advent Differs From Christmas: Making A Way for Jesus’ Coming
Why is it that when December kicks in, we have this feeling of joyful zest and happiness in our hearts even in this time of life, where the world is still grappling with Covid-19 virus. Even just putting up Christmas decors, it spikes a feel-good hormone in our bodies, stirring up mixed feelings of nostalgia and pure joy, reconnecting us with our childhood days. Oh well, who doesn’t love Advent anyway – it leads to and prepares us for the Christmas season, right? Even non-Christians seem to enjoy the moment, that’s why it is viewed as the most popular holiday in the year throughout the world.
For us Christians, we consider Christmas as the wonderful time of the year as we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. More than its spiritual significance, the fact is we are overwhelmed with the beautiful things we see around: Christmas decorations, and twinkling lights and holiday cheer awash the environment. Sure, all these make our surroundings joyful. But how about our preparation for the coming of Jesus? Are we forging a right path for Him so He can occupy a special place in our hearts?
Some of us are not fully aware that based on the Liturgical Year, the season of Advent comes first before Christmas. This was true in the case of my friend. She was of the impression that “Advent” is simply one of the activities of the Church as part of Christmas celebration such as the lighting of candles of the Advent wreath, the 9-day Advent Novena, also known as the “Simbang Gabi, among others. In the Church calendar, Advent season is separate and distinct from Christmas. In fact, its celebration takes longer (roughly more than 3 weeks) than that of Christmas (about 2 weeks) providing us ample time to patiently wait, prepare and celebrate for our Lord’s coming which is actually the essence of Advent.
The Gospel readings of the four Sundays of Advent speak of preparations. It basically tells us to “stay awake”, pray, repent, forgive and “be prepared”. So, how do we prepare for the “coming” of Jesus, even if we don’t know when will it happen? The word “coming” does not only refer to the joyful preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas but the Second Coming of Christ on Judgment Day as well. And this is more important in our spiritual life.
As we really don’t know the time frame of God’s coming, we have to to keep watching. That’s why, there’s a need for us to stay awake and be mindful of what’s happening around us and in everything we do, regardless of the timing. Advent serves as a wake up call for us to stay alert as we don’t have any idea when the time comes. The Holy Father recently tweeted that Advent is the time when we “journey towards Jesus and His Kingdom..”. As such, it reminds us to open our eyes wide and look back on what happened in the past and reflect on what God expects from us to do. We all know that God from the very beginning of existence wants us to be good in everything: in thought, in word and in deed. But because of the uncertainties in life and the unfortunate events that came our way, we stumble and fall. And this is where and how Advent plays a crucial role in our spiritual journey to God’s Kingdom.
As Christians, we prepare for the arrival of our Savior. To celebrate Jesus’ birthday, we decorate our homes in advance, we share our blessings to family and friends and give donations especially to those in need. And most of all, we want to please God by looking our very best not only on the outside but also on the inside. We strive hard to live in a manner worthy of being called a Christian.
Same thing happens when we’re expecting guests in our homes. We prepare for their arrival and make a way for them to feel welcome, happy and comfortable during their stay. In fact, we Filipinos are known for being hospitable. We go over everything to the extent of cleaning the house, making or even offering our beds to our visitors just to make their stay memorable. Thus, the more that we have to strive hard to serve and follow God as part of our preparations for His coming.
Advent is a grace-filled season; it is a blessing to all of us as we are given the opportunity to start fresh and begin a new life. When we stumble, we ask God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance and because of that, we feel something new with a clean slate in our life. It is a strong invitation for us to start over and over again so as to go on with our journey and live our faith better, hopefully as much better followers of Christ. And that is the beauty of Advent!
The light of the candle of the Advent wreath is a beacon of hope for everyone. It is about God’s promise of unconditional love, unending hope and eternal life. When God allowed Himself to live like us on earth is a proof of His greatest love for us and this is the greatest gift that God gave to mankind. All we have to do is accept this gift by placing all our faith, love and trust in Him.
If we don’t feel God’s love, we have to look and find Him. Pope Francis once stated that if we want to find God, we have to “seek Him where he is hidden: in the neediest, the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned…”. We only have to follow God’s lead because He’ll draw us closer to Him. And in doing so, God will guide and inspire us with a joyful heart and in the end be spiritually fit and ready to face even in the midst of our darkest days. Without God in our lives, life has no purpose and ultimate meaning.
And if and when we find God and feel His love, we must share it to others because this will make our paths brighter and straighter, paving the way for Jesus’ coming in our lives not only during Advent but through the rest of our lives.
Have a grace-filled, joyful and meaningful Advent to you all. May our Almighty God grant us the joy of His salvation. Amen.