This post is part of the Keep Christ in Christmas Blog Link-Up
hosted by the Catholic Bloggers Network!
With today’s solemn celebration for the First Sunday of Advent, the Church now begins anew the liturgical year. In the words of Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, it is in one liturgical year that the Church re-lives the 33 years of Christ’s life – thirty years obeying, three years teaching, and three hours redeeming. As we journey through this week of Advent, let us continue to read and pray through the Scriptures. One particular Scripture verse to focus on today is Matthew 24:37-44. Specifically, let us meditate on the immortal words of Our Lord at the end of that section: “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Advent is a time of penance in anticipation for the Nativity of Our Lord. But it is also a time to help us remember that we must always be prepared for the Final Judgment and the Second Coming of Christ. Throughout the four weeks of Advent, our focus shall slightly shift, but our focus will always remain in the Child Jesus. During the first week of Advent we should meditate on hope, peace for the second week, joy for the third week, and love during the fourth week.
Concerning the topic of Advent, Fr. Lawrence Smith has said, “Advent is the time to make ready for Christ to live with us. Lent is the time to make us ready to die with Christ. Advent makes Lent possible. Lent makes salvation possible. Advent is the time when eternity approaches earth. Lent is the time when time reaches consummation in Christ's eternal Sacrifice to the Father. Advent leads to Christ's life in time on earth. Lent leads to Christ's eternal Life in Heaven. The Cross -- through the Mass, penance, and mortification -- is the bridge connecting Advent and Lent, Christ and His Church, man and God. Each of the Church's penitential seasons is a dying to the world with the goal of attaining new life in Christ.”
In the words of Pope John XXIII, "Holy Christmas is approaching. Everything in the grotto of Bethlehem is a living lesson for all who wish to live by our faith, and be faithful to it.” Perhaps no image visible in the Christmas season is more poignant than that of the Child Jesus in the manger of Bethlehm. However, it was not until the 1200s that the first Nativity Scene was created by St. Francis of Assisi. St. Bonaventure (d. 1274), writes of the event in his Life of St. Francis of Assisi:
"It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Grecio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, [St. Francis] determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff. Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed. The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His Name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem. A certain valiant and veracious soldier, Master John of Grecio, who, for the love of Christ, had left the warfare of this world, and become a dear friend of this holy man, affirmed that he beheld an Infant marvelously beautiful, sleeping in the manger, Whom the blessed Father Francis embraced with both his arms, as if he would awake Him from sleep. This vision of the devout soldier is credible, not only by reason of the sanctity of him that saw it, but by reason of the miracles which afterwards confirmed its truth. For the example of Francis, if it be considered by the world, is doubtless sufficient to excite all hearts which are negligent in the faith of Christ; and the hay of that manger, being preserved by the people, miraculously cured all diseases of cattle, and many other pestilences; God thus in all things glorifying his servant, and witnessing to the great efficacy of his holy prayers by manifest prodigies and miracles."
Advent as a season is quite ancient. The season itself went through slow development, taking form in the 4th century, and reaching a definite form in Rome by 6th century. Advent starts on the Sunday nearest Nov 30 (Saint Andrew), and forms the beginning of the liturgical year by the 10th century. It started earlier at one time (as early as Nov 11) because it was fashioned after Lent, so it had forty days originally in some areas, and even earlier in other areas (September) which forms the basis of the monastic fast. By the 6th-7th centuries the number is set as a span of four Sundays. The 1962 Missal texts preserve most of the ancient Masses of this season.
The First Sunday of Advent is the start of a new liturgical year in the Church. At Mass you might have noted the purple vestments of the priest. You might have seen less decoration than usual, no colorful flowers for example. Probably the most prominent thing you noticed at your parish was the Advent wreath. These are all signs of the new liturgical season of the Church. The Gospel reading presented by the Church also reminds of the season. Jesus told his followers and all people to “Watch!” The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word for “arrival” or “coming.” It is during this season that we “watch” for the coming or arrival of Jesus: both in the remembrance of His arrival as a baby 2,000 years ago and for His coming or arrival in the Second Coming.
And don't forget about the Advent Embertide Fasting!
For more posts on Advent and Christmas, please see the Advent & Christmas Compilation.
Advent Catechism Lessons:
Please visit CatechismClass.com's Advent Program and enter code ADVENT45 to save 45%!
Here's some other blogs about Keeping Christ in Christmas... Enjoy!
Em’s Estuary: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Happy Little Homemaker: December Devotion: Immaculate Conception
Adoro Ergo Sum: How We Keep Christ in Christmas
JoyAlive.net: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Home to 4 Kiddos Keep Christ in Christmas
Embedded Faith Boldly Be the Christ in Christmas
Journey to Wisdom: Trusting in your Awkward Fiats
Joy of Nine9 Waiting in Joyful Expectation Like a Child
Splendor in the Home Ideas For Keeping Advent and Christmas Holy
Training Happy Hearts 10 Ways to Celebrate the New Liturgical Year
Designs by Birgit: Elf on a Shelf and Santa Claus
Our ABC Life: An Advent Update
Catholic Inspired: Faith-Centered Family Christmas
A Slice of Smith Life: How we keep Christ in Christmas
Catholic All Year: Three Reasons I love Advent
Mary the Defender: Christmas The Battle Begins
Truly Rich Mom: Keep Christ in Christmas
Day By Day in Our World: 40 Days Seeking Him and Keeping Christ in Christmas
Diapers and Drivel: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Raising Soldiers 4 Christ: Keeping Christ in Christmas
Rosary Mom Keep Christ In Christmas With A Teenager
Life Unabridged: Celebrating the Fullness of the Advent and Christmas Season
Mrs Domestic Bliss Gingerbread Nativity
The Chic Traveller Keeping Christ in Christmas
California to Korea Keeping Christ in Christmas
…and if you’d like more Catholic blogs to visit:
Equipping Catholic Families: Keep Christ in Christmas
Fifth of Five Keeping Christ in Christmas – Blog Link-up 2013
Coffee Moments with Sam The Light of Hope
Hand-Maid With Love: CHRISTmas Presence: Keep Christ in Christmas 2013 Edition
Open Window Making hay while the Advent wreath shines
Faith Filled Freebies: Keep Christ in Christmas
Written by the Finger of God: Not Christmas as Usual
On the Way Home: Keep Christ in Christmas
Sue Elvis Writes: Bring Christ to Others
Mommy Bares All Why Celebrate Christmas Even After #YolandaPH
Canadian Catholic Mom Keeping The Little Ones Focused: An Advent Link-Up
Mountain of Grace Homeschooling Keep Christ in Christmas