Today is the first Sunday of Advent!
Yep, it's time to prepare for the celebration of Christmas. But Advent is about much more than that. As we prepare for our celebration of Christ's birth into the world, we are called to prepare ourselves for his imminent return. The two go hand-in-hand, for we can only truly appreciate the significance of his first coming if we also understand the significance of his second coming; our celebration of his birth means nothing if we are caught unprepared for his second.
This is because, although his first coming was in poverty, humility, and peace - and most who were living at the time were unaware of it - his second coming will be all together different: in power, glory, justice, for all the world to see.
Regarding this second coming, Scripture tells us:
"[A]s lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." (Mt 24.27)
"[And] at that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens." (Mk 13.26-27)
"Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books... Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire." (Rev 20.11-12, 14-15)
And so it is not without reason that the Church has ordered the Lectionary such that we Catholics are given, at the very first Mass of Advent, this solemn warning from Gospels to ponder:
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.' " (Mt 24.37-44)
The world is counting down the shopping days left until Christmas - a sign that the world does not have Christ's second coming in view. Let us instead, as we celebrate Christ's first coming into the world, be preparing ourselves for his second.