Are you ready for Christmas? Over the next few weeks that question is frequently asked. Are you ready for Christmas could mean — Is your tree up and decorated? Is your shopping done and your gifts wrapped? Have you written and sent your cards? Is your home decorated and plans completed for Christmas Eve and Christmas day meals and gatherings with family, friends and neighbors? These questions make many people nervous and uneasy as they fret over all they have to do before Christmas.
I would like to propose another more important question to be asked during these weeks before Christmas, this time of year known as Advent. Advent is the season of preparation — getting ready for Jesus. The word Advent means COMING. Advent focuses on the comings of the Lord.
A better question is: Are you ready for His coming during this wonderful time of year that is Christmas? His coming in the flesh of the Infant Jesus, Son of God, Son of Mary, whose birth in Bethlehem of Judea is annually remembered on December 25th and celebrated by the Church for eight (8) days through January 1st? Are you ready to celebrate His birth according to the flesh and what the Incarnation of God means for humanity? His Birth is the central event in human history. Christ came into the world and His birth has affected the world as none other. Will your thinking as His disciple, your speaking as His disciple and your following Him as His disciple be affected by this Christmas celebration of God born among us and as one of us?
Advent is also a preparation for His coming to judge the living and the dead. His coming in glory. His second coming. He will come again. Not in the lowly flesh of an infant, but in the glorified flesh of the Risen Lord of Glory, who will usher in the fullness of God’s Rule at the end of time when the last judgement of the living and the dead will occur. This world will come to its appointed end and God’s Rule will be all that is. Are you ready for His coming in glory? Are you ready to be judged by God for how you have lived as a follower of Christ? We are in the final days awaiting the full showing of God who will separate the sheep from the goats as the Gospel teaches (cf. Mt 25:31ff). Are you living so that you will be among the sheep at the Final Judgement?
In Advent we also prepare for the coming of Christ in mystery. Mystery does not mean that Christ is completely hidden or concealed but that He is manifested in various ways. Are you ready to encounter Him in the sacraments in which He acts and is present? In the church in which He teaches? Are you ready to meet Him in His disciples who follow Him and seek to put into practice His teachings and commands? Mystery means that women and men with whom you come in contact bear the face of God, especially the poor, the suffering, and the infirm (cf. Mt. 25:31-46). Mystery means that Christ comes to us in very unassuming ways. Are you ready to greet Him? To recognize Him?
During Advent let us think about getting ready for these three comings of the Lord. His coming in history, taking our flesh to save us. His coming in glory and majesty when He will be shown as the Lord of Heaven and Earth. His coming in the present, disguised in so many people, situations and events. Present in each Sacrament. Be prepared to greet Him. Wait for Him. Expect Him. He comes.
The first Christians frequently prayed, Come, Lord Jesus, “Maranatha.” Let us make this our Advent prayer during these weeks before Christmas: Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly! Show yourself! We wait and watch for you. We expect you and we need you to rescue us from darkness and sin. Praying this way, we come to God and to deeper faith, commitment and conversion. As He unexpectedly came once in human flesh, He still comes into our lives. Expect Him. Wait for Him. And, in these days before Christmas, get ready for Him.
Most Reverend Dennis J. Sullivan, D.D.
Bishop of Camden