In this first Sunday of December we find ourselves in mode of preparation; not just concerning trimming the tree or the buying and wrapping of presents, but in Advent we are preparing for both the coming of the Christ child and the return of Christ Jesus in glory at the end of time.
The prophet Isaiah foretells the coming of the Messiah and describes the Messiah as the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Yes, we as Christians see this coming true in the Christ child, but also in this Christ Jesus who promises to usher in the kingdom of heaven, the second coming. In the readings for the first Sunday of Advent, we find ourselves preparing for the return of Jesus in glory at the end of time; a time when he will come to judge the people of the earth and to inaugurate his kingdom, the new reign of the kingdom of God, “a world without end.”
A traditional symbol for our preparation for Christ's coming, both then and now, is the Advent wreath. The circular shape of the wreath symbolizes the never-ending grace and love of God. The four candles may symbolize the past as we think about the shepherds, the angels, the star of Bethlehem and Mary and Joseph, his parents. Or the candles may point us towards the future as it symbolizes the Christian themes of faith, hope, love and joy. The large candle in the center is the Christ Candle, which is lit on Christmas Eve and remains lit during the next 12 days of the Christmas season.
Finally, Advent reminds us that Christ Jesus comes to us, weekly, in the Holy Eucharist—and in his words—the Word of God, the Word made flesh. As God-made-flesh, Jesus is present all around us, but especially in the celebration that he gave us at the supper just before he died for us: “Take this and eat. This is my body that is given for you. Do this for the remembrance of me.”
During the season of Advent, let us keep the real presence of “Christ before us, Christ behind us, and Christ all around us.” Thanks be to God.