It's Advent again already, the very beginning of the liturgical year, the time of waiting and preparing for the arrival of Jesus, both in His first and second comings.
The first one, we already know about, of course: Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem to be counted in the census commanded by Caesar Augustus; no room in the inn for an expectant mother; the stable that had to make do. Shepherds in the fields keeping their watch by night and angels in the sky singing gloria in excelsis Deo! The baby in the manger, the humble King of kings, the journeying wise men bringing rich gifts.
The second coming? That's the great mystery. No one knows when it will happen: we just know that He told us to be prepared. That's part of what Advent is about, as we devote ourselves to greater prayer and introspection during these four weeks so that we can be ready to receive Him at the Christ Mass.
So that's our big challenge every year, of course. What are we going to focus on? The real meaning of the Christmas season, or the cooking and baking, the shopping and partying, the quest for sales and the perfect gift for every person on our lists? Spiritual or secular? How to manage both so that the spiritual side weighs heavier than the other side is the greatest difficulty of our age, especially since the secular is WEEKS ahead of the spiritual: there have been Christmas displays in the stores of harried retailers since right after Halloween.
Here's our chance, beginning today, to pace ourselves a little more wisely as we wait for the coming King.