Let Christ Be Your Focus This Advent

Today we begin a new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent.  The word “advent” is derived from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.”

The focus of the Church during the Season of Advent is the three-fold coming of Christ: past, present, and future.  First, we remember the Lord’s humble first coming in the small, insignificant town of Bethlehem over two thousand years ago.  Second, we give thanks and acknowledge his present coming to us in the Word, the Eucharist, and the other sacraments.  Finally, we look forward with blessed hope to his return in glory as our Just Judge and King at the end of the age.

Purple is the traditional color for the Season of Advent.  Purple was the most costly dye in ancient times and was therefore used by kings to indicate their royal status.  Purple also signifies the repentance and patience of God’s people as they awaited the arrival of the Savior.

The Advent wreath is part of this season of anticipation.  The wreath consists of a circle of evergreen branches set around four candles. The evergreen circle stands for the eternal life that Christ won for us by his suffering, death, and resurrection.  The color green is a symbol of hope, hope in the resurrection and eternal life in the heavenly Kingdom.  The candles represent the coming of Christ into the world as the Light of the world.  The candles traditionally are three purple and one rose or pink colored.  A purple candle is lit on the first and second Sundays of Advent, with the rose or pink one being lit on the Third Sunday of Advent.  This Sunday is called “Gaudette” Sunday, a Latin word meaning “rejoice.”  It is taken from the opening antiphon of the liturgy for that Sunday, “Rejoice, the Lord is near!” 

With each candle being lit, the light gets brighter and brighter, a reminder that Jesus came into the world to scatter the darkness of hatred and sin.  The Feast of Christmas is strategically placed on the liturgical calendar after the Winter Solstice when the hours of daylight begin to get longer.

While the rest of secular society is already caught up in the frantic rush of shopping, decorating, parties, and other distractions, the Church takes time during the Season of Advent to contemplate the wonder of God’s mercy and love as revealed to us in Jesus Christ.  Christians approach the Season of Advent much in the same way as expectant parents approach the months before their child is born.  There are feelings of exhilaration, longing, and awe as the day of arrival approaches.  Just as parents do everything they can to get ready and put things in good order, God’s people prepare themselves at home and church for the coming of the Lord by engaging in the disciplines of Advent: prayer, study of Scripture, participation in the Mass, and making a good sacramental confession.

May this Season of Advent find us slowing down and taking time to contemplate what it is we are truly celebrating on Christmas Day.  May Christ be our focus so that our spiritual lives will be permeated with the love of God, the greatest gift we can be given.

— Fr. Dennis, Dec. 3, 2017