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Every Advent season, we are reminded that it is a season of “waiting,” of hopeful anticipation of the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. But how many of us really feel this waiting? How many of us really feel the excitement of the arrival of Christmas Day?
Let me be more specific. Everyone’s usually excited for Christmas, but quite often for reasons other than spiritual. We’re excited for the holidays, for the time we can spend with friends and family — it’s a festive season of fun, food and frolic.
I remember a child from the parish asking me, “Every year Father says Jesus is coming. When is he actually going to come?”
Wise words, which capture our spiritual state of mind. I must be honest that all these years, even as a priest, while I’ve intellectually known the significance of the Advent season, I haven’t quite “felt” it.
That changed last week. Suddenly, I realized what the “waiting of Advent” truly meant and felt like, and it’s because in my family we are expecting the birth of a child. My brother and sister-in-law are expecting their first child soon.
As you might guess, the whole family is more than excited, not just the parents-to-be. I can hardly control my emotions, knowing that I will be an uncle soon. For a priest, his nephews and nieces are like his own children. I can hardly wait for the day when I see the face of this little one for the very first time, and fill my arms with this new life full of promise.
I’m feeling Advent!
Isn’t this what Mary and Joseph felt when they lived out the very first “Advent” waiting for the birth of the child? Even though they knew beforehand that this child was going to be more than special, their lives were about to change because of a baby! Every expectant couple experiences this advent.
So this Advent, I am waiting for not one but two babies! The baby Jesus came once and for all 2,000 years ago and I do not know what his face looked like, but I will see him in the face of my little nephew or niece. I will see the face of God in one who has just come from God and has been made in His own image and likeness. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, captured this perfectly on Twitter: ” Advent is listening to what can barely be heard – the sound of the heartbeat of an unborn child.”
In fact, there are three Advents or “comings.” The first took place 2,000 years ago when Jesus came for the first time. The second arrival will take place at the end of time, when the Lord Jesus will come in glory to judge the living and the dead and carry us into His eternal dwelling place. And the third advent is his continuous coming right through time. He was, He is and He will come again. For this reason, the Church is in a perpetual state of Advent, as we await his coming.
Of course, Jesus has already come, but we forget what this feels like, and the Advent season is there to remind us of this fact. At the first, second, third birthday of their child, the parents are reminded of what it actually felt like when their child was born. The little babe grows slowly but steadily: it turns over on its stomach, it begins to babble, say “Mama,” it begins to crawl, and then one day stands on its two feet. This is a metaphor for our spiritual life. The spark of faith within us must grow slowly but steadily, all the time while we retain the joy, innocence and hope of a little child. “For to these will belong the Kingdom of Heaven,” said Jesus.
So this Advent, if you want to remember what it feels like, look upon the face of a little newborn babe, and you will know what it’s all about!