In my post yesterday, I mentioned the importance of making firm resolutions in order to prepare ourselves for Jesus’s coming at Christmastime. When I was looking over what I’d written, this amused me somewhat because I’ve always said I don’t really see the point in New Year resolutions – but Advent is, of course, the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year. Advent resolutions are truly New Year resolutions! And I think that this is really the best time of year to decide to turn over a new leaf and form good habits.
The problem I have with New Year resolutions, beginning on the first of January, is that there doesn’t seem to be any point. Yes, it is the beginning of a new year, but what is the significance of that, other than the numbers changing on the calendar? What makes the first of January a more appropriate time to straighten out your life than any other time of year? And there is of course the age-old tradition, known by the well-meaning everywhere, of making a resolution and finding out that the expiry date of their motivation is about a week later. As a general rule, only the determined, the stubborn, and those with an unambitious imagination when it comes to resolutions manage to stick to their promises.
Advent resolves are different. While New Year resolutions are very much focused on the self – how we can acquire a better life by exercising more, eating healthier, procrastinating less, cutting down on the internet, etc. – Advent calls us to keep watch and be vigilant for Jesus. We are called to try harder to live the best lives we can for the sake of Him and His love for us, not our own sakes.
Of course, the question still stands: why do we need a special time of year for us to make these resolutions in? Christmas is an important season of celebration, and we’re called to prepare for it – but it’s not as if we’re off the hook once Christmas is over. We still are meant to be doing our best to BE our best selves, for Jesus’s sake, the whole year round. So why is Advent so significant?
There is, of course, the fact that human beings need constant reminders. We’re absent minded-like that, and when the rhythm of life is steady and predictable it is all too easy for our mindset to slip into that dangerous complacency. The seasons of the Church work like the natural seasons to keep us on our toes; change around us reminds us of the need to change ourselves.
Advent is particularly special, though, in that it calls us to prepare for Christmas; Christ’s coming to Earth. And while Christ is born in our hearts in a special way in the Christmas season each year, we are of course waiting for Christ in another way. We as Christians are awaiting His second coming, when ‘He will come again to judge the living and the dead’. Christmas both celebrates Jesus’s birth in the stable of Bethlehem around 2000 years ago and reminds us to be hopeful and ready for His second coming. In the same way, Advent calls on us to take into our hearts the wondrousness of Christ’s Incarnation so that we may truly celebrate it, and it reminds us to prepare ourselves for when He will come again. On the grand scale of things, the time in which we currently live IS Advent, while the liturgical celebration of Christmas gives us a glimpse of the joy that is to come when this time of watching and waiting is finally completed.