As you drive around town, you may notice Christmas lights and decorations adorning homes and yards. Maybe you’ve already decked your own halls in anticipation of Christmas. But if you’ve been paying attention to the Mass readings, you won’t find the same merriment and festivity in the Gospel readings.
This Sunday marks the First Week of Advent, which is also the first day of the new liturgical year. And as we come to the end of this liturgical year, Scripture is pointing us to the end times and the Second Coming of Christ. This is fitting, as Advent is not only a time when we prepare to celebrate Christ coming at Christmas, but to prepare also for His Second Coming. It can be a strange juxtaposition, though, to have the lights and merriment of Christmas alongside the apocalyptic prophesies of the end times. How can we live the balance between the two and celebrate Jesus’ birth while also being ready for His Second Coming?
Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ explained how observing Advent can help us prepare for Christ. It is a season that gives us the opportunity to reflect on how we are really living our lives, while also appreciating the beauty of the season.
He began by discussing the apocalyptic themes in the Gospels, saying, “What is the end of time going to be like? What is Judgement Day going to be like for me and for you? How terrible, how horrific – because you and I will come face to face with our own sinfulness. We will come face to face with how we were called to live our life, and how we fell short from that. That’s why we need to use this time well, focusing on God’s mercy.”
He explained that the season of Advent is a gift, because it is a season of both repentance and hope. Fr. Matthew said, “Advent is about to start and Advent is a really fantastic time to review our lives, to look deeply at how we’re living our lives, to answer honestly if we’re living our lives in a way that would make Jesus proud, or whether there is still much work we can do. And then to make some changes.”
But preparing our souls for Judgement Day doesn’t mean that we should ignore the beauty and wonder of Christmas. Observing Advent actually helps keeps our eyes fixed on why we deck the halls.
“If we only focus on those external things and forget about Jesus in the tabernacle, if we’re only looking on the outside and not reflecting on what it all point to – to God – then we are putting ourselves in a dangerous place,” Fr. Matthew said. “As you and I prepare for the coming Advent season, as we review how we have been living our lives this last liturgical year, are we focusing on the essentials as well as safeguarding the externals and the beauty that is there? Are we focusing on our interior life as much as we focus on what people can see on the exterior?”
“Let’s work on holiness,” Fr. Matthew concluded. “Let’s work on creating a place in our hearts for God, where He would be proud to reside. Where He would be honored to hold vigil for you and for me. You and I can also adorn ourselves with other things that will draw others to the beauty of Christ, but first and foremost make sure that internally we are rightly disposed toward God.”
Listen to the full reflection below: