This liturgical cycle has a long and rich history and has developed around aspects of the Christian journey and experience. The Advent-Christmas cycle focuses on the Incarnation, God coming to us and dwelling among us. In the Lent-Easter cycle we dwell on the Lord’s Resurrection and God raising us to new life with Him. Incarnation and Resurrection (Christmas and Easter) are the two anchors of the Christian year. Advent and Lent precede these two great seasons of celebration and are seasons of preparation.
What is called Ordinary Time lies between the Lent-Easter and Advent-Christmas liturgical seasons. These are known as The Season of Epiphany and The Season of Pentecost. Epiphany is about Christ being made “manifest” to a world that desperately needs a Savior. Pentecost refers to the Holy Spirit empowering the Christian life and making all things new.
With all that said, let us look at the approaching season of Advent. The word Advent means coming or arrival. Since it is the season before Christmas, it is logically about getting ready for Jesus’ coming. We naturally think of Jesus’ First Coming at Christmas, 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-awaited fruition 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, which is that the flow of history from God’s perspective (Salvation History) has both a
purpose and a 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 to us 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!”