A Happy Christian New Year to you all! With this Sunday, we officially leave behind the Year of Grace 2021, and welcome the Year of Grace 2022, grateful for the presence of God with us in the joys and sorrows of the past year and, and confident in His presence with us in the year to come. While we might not always think of Advent in these terms, seeing this season as the pivot of our year can help make sense of its other peculiarities.
Above all, we have to consider why a season that leads us to Christmas begins with readings about the end of time. While we normally associate Advent with Mary’s sacred pregnancy, the journey to Bethlehem, and Christ child in the manger, surrounded by light and glory, today’s Gospel speaks to us of the terror that will consume the world before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It certainly seems odd at first. Yet if we understand that this Sunday represent the pivot of the whole liturgical year, one into the next, it makes sense that we should be focusing on the same mysteries with which we ended the year, though from a slightly different perspective.
We end the liturgical year looking with seriousness of mind at the end of time, and all that it will require to face those last things well. At the beginning of Advent, we look at those same last things, but with great hope and joy, seeing beyond all the trials and tests that are to come, all the way to the triumphant return of Jesus Christ. The world “advent” simply means “arrival,” and the second coming of Our Lord is the last and greatest Advent of God in our world. We celebrate, at the beginning of our year, the joyful fact that Christ will come to us. He will not leave us alone in this world, so full of difficulties and unresolved crises. He will set everything right, heal every wound, wipe away every tear, reward all good, and punish all evil. He will not abandon us, but will come to save us in a perfect and definitive manner.
Focusing on this last coming of Christ our God prepares us to look with hope and joy on His first coming to us, at Christmas. That silent night of perfect light showed to us in a new way that God really was with us, that He loved us enough to come and save us. We contemplate His presence with us in our world for the first time, there in the manger, as a prelude to His saving action on the Cross, His presence with us in the Sacraments, and His final coming to bring all things to a harmonious resolution.
This Sunday, then, as we begin this holy season of Advent, we can resolve to look for the presence of Christ wherever He is in our lives, and make the decision to attend to Him there. Whether that means attending Masses with greater attention, taking more time in daily prayer, giving up some part of our lives that distracts us or separates us from Him, or even just taking note of all the good things He has given us, that discipline will certainly bear good fruit. Then. confident in His final triumph in glory, and remembering His first visit to us in peace, we can come to see, in hope, all the ways that He continues to live with us now, guiding us towards the Kingdom of His heavenly Father.