And a very Happy New Year to all my fellow Catholics! Yes, Catholics have three chances, not one, to celebrate New Year’s. On the First Sunday of Advent, you will customarily hear parishioners wishing one another a “Happy New Year!” Non-catholics are generally surprised or confused to hear this, until they discover we follow a liturgical year as well as a calendrical one, and the first Sunday of Advent is the start of another annual cycle!
The second New Year’s Day for Catholics is, of course, January 1. When we can join the rest of the world, have a drink, look back with thanks, and look forward with hope and hopefully set off a few fireworks! On this day we will also celebrate again the birth of the Lord, and the dawn of our redemption by honoring Mary the Mother of God.
Much like the Christmas Shopping Season (technically) begins on Black Friday, our Liturgical New Year always begins with the Season of Advent!
But unlike waiting in long lines for the best deals on Black Friday, Advent is all about waiting for Jesus Christ!
The gospel readings of Advent make us mindful of the ways we await Jesus: past, present, and future. First, we remember and accompany Mary, Joseph, and the newborn Jesus. Second, we prepare for the celebration of his birth at Christmas. Third, we anticipate the second coming of Jesus Christ, who will come in power and glory for everyone to see and establish his kingdom of peace and justice upon the earth.
It’s easy and lots of FUN for us, at this time of year, to rush busily around preparing for Santa’s arrival! Our next four weeks will be busy making lists and checking them twice, as we determine just who has been naughty or nice.
But our Church helps us too, beginning today with a New Liturgical year, to prepare ourselves to genuinely, with this same focus and glee, not only to prepare for Jesus’ birth but to receive him fully into our hearts!
And while we are preparing to celebrate his birth in Bethlehem, preparing to receive him fully into our hearts as our redeemer – we are also preparing to see him in heaven, when we will know him as he knows us; as well as at the Second Coming at the end of time.
Also, much like Santa asks us to prepare a plate of deliciously baked cookies in preparation for his arrival, Jesus compassionately warns us to be ready for His (own) return!
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.”Luke 21:31-35
During this Season of giving we are often reminded that we are indeed blessed.
But hopefully we will be mindful that we are being challenged too.
Today, at the beginning of a new liturgical year, the gospel asks us to take the long view in our lives; for the ultimate purpose is to live with God forever.
Jesus asks us to trust in God’s purposes for ourselves and for all people.
For Jesus is coming…and Santa follows behind in his sleigh.
hugs n’ blessings for a wonderful New Year!!