Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Real Meaning of Advent

Dear Theophilus,

As Advent approaches Catholics the world over are called to make preparations for Christmas. Like the world over, those preparations usually involve making plans to travel, creating menus and shopping for grandiose meals, and, most importantly it seems, heading to the mall with lists if gifts for under the tree. With Christmas music playing over store sound system since mid-November, I’ll be Christmased out long before I make it to the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve.

Sometimes I find I need to take a moment away from the Christmas chaos to stop, pause and reflect on what Advent is all about to make sure I’ve got my priorities straight. I had one of those moments recently when I came across Jonathan McGovern’s blog, Scattered Thoughts of a Roam’in Catholic. In his post Where is the line??? he comments on the commercial pandemonium that is Black Friday and how North American society has strayed from the spiritual preparation that Advent is meant to be.

Like Jonathan’s blog did for me, we need to be reminded as a society as to Advent’s purpose. Yes, it is a time to prepare ourselves for Christmas, but this needs to be done in a spiritual way, not the materialistic, commercial way that some how takes over our lives come December. To be able to achieve this spiritual preparation, we need to remember what Christmas is all about – the birth of Jesus, the coming of Christ the Messiah, the Word becoming flesh and walking among us. If this is the case, shouldn’t the thought that occupies our minds during Advent be to ask ourselves why God sent his only Son to walk among His creation and not what to get the aunt we only see once a year.

To answer the question ‘Why did God become the Word incarnate?’ we need look no further than the first public announcement of Christ’s ministry on earth by his cousin, St. John the Baptist. Upon seeing Jesus for the first time the voice calling out in the wilderness pronounced:

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn 1:29)

The Youcat expands on this by stating:

Why did God become man in Jesus?

In Jesus Christ, God reconciled the world to himself and redeemed mankind from the imprisonment of sin. “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son” (Jn 3:1`6). In Jesus, God took on our mortal human flesh, shared our earthly lot, our sufferings, and our death, and became one like us in all things but sin. (YC 76; ref. CCC 456-460)

Amidst all of the Christmas joy, this is a very sobering fact. The baby Jesus is born because we are sinners. The cute infant in the manger in Bethlehem has been conceived to die on Calvary for our sins. As sombre as it may seem, this is, however, something you can rejoice in – the forgiveness of sins is at hand through God’s saving grace.

As we go about the hustle and bustle of preparing materially for Christmas, we need to take the time to prepare spiritually for what it is meant to be. We need to take time out from preparing meals to prepare our hearts for God’s saving forgiveness become incarnate in the Christ child. We need to tune out the noise of the world around us and tune into the silence needed to examine our conscience to make sure we are ready to welcome Christ anew into the world.

And when we become despondent that we are alone in the world with our spiritual preparations, know that our gentle witness will send a ripple through society, calling all hearts to prepare for the coming of Christ.


  1. Great post! I'd be interested in hearing what someone with your perspective is planning to do for this Advent!

    1. Thanks Taylor,

      A brief list - please don't hold me to it. I'm a feeble sinner, and although my intentions are noble, I am weak:

      :Confession - at least once, if not twice (beginning and end of Advent)

      :Daily prayers - hopefully Lauds and Compline

      :Daily scripture

      :Mass at least one day a week other than Sunday

      :Re-read the early chapters of "Life of Christ" by Fulton Sheen - meditation on where he points out the symbols in the nativity that point towards the crucifixion and resurrection

      I don't want to put too much more for fear of failure.

      May God bless,


  2. Nice! This is a good point to meditate upon during the holy season of Advent.

    1. Thank you Thomas,

      Sometimes it's hard to keep the bigger picture in perspective when we're looking at the minutiae of the pointalist picture.

      May God bless,


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