"Advent has a twofold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ's Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight" (Norms, no. 39).
During the first weeks of Advent, the prayers and readings focus more specifically on preparing for Christ's Second Coming while acknowledging his presence among us even now. As Advent progresses, the focus turns toward preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord. First, we look at the ministry of John the Baptist, proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. In the last days before Christmas (December 17-24), the readings offer immediate preparation for the Incarnation of Christ. These days are marked by praying the "O Antiphons,” which herald the coming of Christ using ancient titles for the Messiah.
Though the secular world during this time focuses on decorating, shopping, and the anticipatory celebration of Christmas, for the Church, “Advent is a time of waiting, conversion, and of hope:
- Waiting-memory of the first, humble coming of the Lord in our mortal flesh; waiting-supplication for his final, glorious coming as Lord of History and universal Judge;
- Conversion, to which the Liturgy at this time often refers quoting the prophets, especially John the Baptist, Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand' (Matthew 3:2);
- Joyful hope that the salvation already accomplished by Christ (see Rom 8:24-25) and the reality of grace in the world, will mature and reach their fullness, thereby granting us what is promised by faith, and 'we shall become like him for we shall see him as he really is’(John 3:2)“ (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, no. 96).
O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and still more wonderfully restored it, grant, we pray, that we may share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
David J. Conrad