How many Advent reflections begin by reminding you that Advent is about more than buying gifts, wrapping presents, planning dinner and decorating?  Most, I’d venture to say. That’s because we easily get overwhelmed by the tasks of the season, and it helps to be reminded that we are being called to do more. So, while we know we have to attend to a host of material things leading up to Christmas, we sometimes need to be prodded to remember to tend to our spiritual needs as well. What does the Advent ahead look like for you?

I always used to think of Advent as a time of solemn reflection. Although it leads us into Christmas, with all its attendant joys, I still understood it to be a time of introspection and repentance. And of course, it is. We should all take the opportunity, as we await the coming of our Savior, to consider our own lives, to take stock of where we are, and where God wants us to be.

 Yet, even with that challenging task at hand, today I am far more taken with the idea that Advent is a time of great hope. Hope that, despite our own expectations and desires, God has things firmly in hand.

 I think about Mary, and how she had to surrender probably every expectation she ever had about how her life would turn out, and how much hope she must have held for God’s plan being manifested in her very self. Hope that God’s presence among us would save us, would change the world.

 I think about Peter, and all the apostles, and how hard it was for them to hear and understand what Jesus was saying to them — what He said was so often at odds with their own  expectations and desires. But they stayed, because in Jesus they found hope for salvation, for new life. Hope that God’s presence among them would save us, would change the world.

 I think about Paul and all the early Christians, waiting breathlessly, expectantly, for the imminent return of Jesus; and I think of John, left when all the rest had gone. Left to remind us that while He hadn’t yet returned, that day will come. He gave us hope for what awaits in the last judgment, the gateway to the Kingdom. Hope that God’s presence in the final coming will save us, and change the world — bringing us to a new, transformed existence.

 It turns out that for all the Christmas preparations that dress it up, Advent isn’t just about getting ready for the coming of the Christ child. It’s also about His presence with us every day, right now, through the Sacraments and through the Holy Spirit, helping us to prepare for the Second Coming — to be ready, to be right with God when the moment arrives when we will be saved. When the world will be forever changed.