During the Season of Advent, it is good to remember that we are commemorating and reliving the time just before our Lord Christ was born. We learn from the Old Testament that the Hebrews, His chosen people, expected Him to come as a figure of power, the Messiah of the Judaic tradition. They had not been yet freed, neither from foreign powers nor sin, but lived in the expectation that the Messiah would soon come to fulfill the Scriptures. That is because even from the times of the prophet Isaiah, they were told to expectantly wait for Him. They were called to transform their world to hasten the coming of the Lord. The means of their salvation was growing near, and it required their own efforts and contributions so that the Glory of God would be revealed.
Now, looking at this period of historical time in the light of the New Testament, we know that Jesus, the Messiah, did not come as a figure of political power but as the Savior of humankind. The call from Isaiah was still there, resonating with the people able to understand that Christ our Lord came to redeem us from sin and establish the Kingdom of Heaven. Just before Christ came to His public ministry, the Hebrews were called to repentance. John the Baptist preached: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (John 3:2).
John the Baptist called the people to stop for a moment, consider their lives, and repent of their sins. He called them to accept a baptism of repentance, a symbolic cleansing that helped the people prepare for the Lord’s coming. Going thought that immersion in the water was their way to renounce sin. That was the way they committed to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Luke 3:4). The time of John the Baptist was, in many ways, the original Advent season. He still calls us today to prepare ourselves, through committed action, for a life in Christ.
As the most perfect gift to us from the Father, Christ is born into the world. Through Jesus’ life, all of Scripture is fulfilled. Through the Paschal Mystery, we are redeemed. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are adopted as children of God. Our baptism through Christ is the baptism of Spirit. This is not symbolic as the baptism of repentance is. We are genuinely cleansed of our sins. We are baptized with the Holy Spirit. We are united to the Holy Trinity through the Sacraments. This is the realization of our expectation. It is what we prepare for in Advent. We must remember that.
During Advent, our Season of Expectation, we are called yet again to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5)
As John the Baptist did so long ago, we welcome the Advent. We immerse ourselves in the waters of penance and joy. We remember that we are sinners and repent sincerely, yet also rejoice because we know we have a Savior who loves us.
We will soon celebrate the Christmas season, where we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ in that humble manger so long ago. We cherish the image of the Holy Family. We celebrate that, in the same way as the shepherds were invited to gaze upon their Savior, we are also asked to acknowledge Christ as our beloved Redeemer, Lord, and King. But before we celebrate, we must purify. We must recognize our faults and work towards fixing them, for that is our way to make straight the path.
The Christmas lights and tree are probably already up. The Christmas music is already on the radio. Parties are scheduled. Gifts are bought and maybe even wrapped. But let us stop for a moment and take some time to silently and peacefully consider how to welcome Christ more fully into our lives. Let us take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Let us attend Mass and partake of the Eucharist. Let us show Him we are prepared.
Let us pray: Christ, you came to redeem the world and fulfill all Scripture. You are the Will of the Father. Help us to grow into consideration of all Your love and sacrifice. Help us to repent of our sins and grow in true humility. Help us to grow in expectation of You. That our hearts be ready to receive You once again as our beloved Lord and Savior. Amen.