The Season of Pentecost is coming to an end the Season of Advent is about to begin. There are six liturgical seasons reflected on the Church calendar: Advent-Christmas; Epiphany,;Lent-Easter; and Pentecost.
The seasons of the church year have a long and rich history and have developed around themes emphasizing aspects of the Christian journey and experience. The Advent-Christmas cycle focuses on the Incarnation, God coming and dwelling among us. The Lent-Easter cycle is about The Lord’s Resurrection and God raising us to new life in the Risen Christ. Incarnation and Resurrection are the two anchors of the Christian year. These two great seasons of celebration are each preceded by a season of preparation (Lent, Advent). The Sunday readings assigned to these seasons reflect these themes.
There is also what is called Ordinary Time between these two great seasonal celebrations of Lent-Easter and Advent-Christmas. Ordinary Time are the Season of Epiphany and the Season of Pentecost.
With the arrival of Advent we begin a new church year. The word Advent means coming or arrival. Since it is the season before Christmas, it is logically about getting ready for Jesus’ First Coming, but if we listen to the readings that are assigned from the lectionary during Advent, we quickly realize that it is also about getting ready for Jesus’ Second Coming, which is the long-waited completion of Christ’s redemptive work in the world.
It might seem strange to us that Advent, the first season of the Church year, is also about the very end of things. It makes the strong theological point, however, that the flow of history, including Salvation History, has purpose direction and destination. History is not a randomly stitched together series of events; rather, it is headed somewhere and God is in the driver’s seat. There is a divine destination for all of us, and the Season of Advent is about discovering the Way to that destination. The Way is, of course, Jesus. Therefore, whether we are talking about Jesus’ first coming as a baby lying in a feeding trough in a stable at Bethlehem 2000 years ago, or about Jesus coming in power and glory at the End Times, Advent is about God coming to us; thus we have the great cry of Advent, “Come, O Come, Emmanuel!”