The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which is a translation of the Greek word parousia, which refers to the second coming of Christ. For Christians, the season of Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives, the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and our preparation for his second coming.
During Advent, we reflect on the history of God’s people and on how the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament were fulfilled. This history gives us a background for the present, and helps us understand what our history means to us now as we prepare for what is to come in our own future and that of our world.
Much more is involved in Advent than preparation for Christmas. Advent gives us a twofold vision of our lives. It looks back to the first coming of Christ at Bethlehem, and it looks to the future when Christ will come again. In the time between these two events, God’s plan is unfolding a plan in which each of us, no matter how hard it may be for us to believe, has an important part to play.
First, we celebrate Christ-become-human. We view his life and experience his presence as a human being in our history. Christ came to show us what life can, and should be. He gave us a way of life based on true moral values.
But Jesus knew that the human heart could not live in isolation so he gave us the church, a people held together by love. In the community of the church, we find meaning. Alone, we can do nothing. Together, we find real meaning.
When Christ left this earth, he did not abandon us. He remains with us in his Spirit, the church, the sacraments, the scriptures, and each other. He lives in community with us and keeps his vision of life before us.
When Christ comes again, his presence will no longer be hidden behind the signs and symbols of the liturgy or the words of the scriptures. His presence among us will be revealed in all its fullness, a presence that will never end. This fullness of his presence will perfect and complete our community.
Advent is a very significant time for us. In these few short weeks, we take in the sweeping panorama of time from Christ’s birth to his second coming. The season of Advent brings us the magnificent vision of life and hope for the future given to us by Christ.
During Advent we are preparing not only for Christmas, but also for Christ’s second coming. Our prayer this Advent is that when Jesus comes again, we will be awake and watchful. He will not find us asleep.