It is always a wonderful coincidence that our celebration of Thanksgiving occurs before the First Sunday of Advent each year. Although Thanksgiving is not a liturgical feast, it is appropriate on that day to bow our heads in grateful prayer to God before beginning a new Church year.
The season of Advent is a unique season of hope – filled with preparation for all of us in the Christian community – although it can be missed easily by society at large as simply an extended, early celebration of Christmas. True enough, Christ has already come, and we should rejoice in his Incarnation every day of our lives. But the four weeks of Advent give us all a special time for the prayerful “retelling” of the story leading up to the birth of Jesus, the Hope of Israel.
The images of Isaiah and the prophets, John the Baptist, and Mary figure so prominently in the Scriptures we read and preach during these few, fast weeks. We need to let the “Word” sink deeply into our minds, hearts and souls as the great scriptural Advent figures anticipated the “Word made flesh.” The hymns we sing and the orations we pray at Mass all fix our attention in faith upon the One who has come, the One who is coming and the One who is yet to come, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is all about Him: everything we are, everything we hope for and everything we do as Christians. We need to make every day of Advent an anticipation of yet another, more profound, more transforming revelation of Emmanuel, “God among us.”
Although we have read and sung and prayed the Advent message many times before, a pause, some quiet time for prayer, the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation all go a long way to “make all things new” again … not only for the people of God, but for those who minister to them in our parishes as well.
Just as my own Thanksgiving prayer included all of you, so, too, my Advent prayers and Masses embrace you all as well, in a joyful anticipation of what the new Church year will bring for the Diocese of Trenton because of the Lord Jesus in our midst. O come, let us adore Him!