With the coming of Advent, a new liturgical year begins. This is a time of preparation so that our hearts can be made ready for the two advents of our Lord Jesus Christ; namely, His first advent, when He came "to visit us in great humility," and His second advent, when He will come "in a cloud with power and great glory." These advents of Christ are similar, in that it is the same Person who comes to us on both occasions: God the Son.
Both advents are preceded by a long delay. The first one took place "when the fulness of time was come;" in other words, time had to pass, and man had to experience the full effects of the Fall for him to know just how sick he was, and he needed to be humbled and to recognize his need for a Saviour. And before the second advent, the virtues and the effects of the Incarnation and Passion of Christ also require the passing of time, and why? So that the Gospel can be preached to every corner of the earth; so that mankind might choose whether to serve Christ, or not.
Both advents have a time of preparation leading up to them: before the first coming it was the Law. In the Law there was a "shadow of things to come." And there was the preaching of the prophets which culminated in the ministry of St. John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Lord Jesus. And now, before the second coming of Christ, the ministry of the Church throughout the world will culminate in signs and wonders, in conversions and changed lives, which will all prepare mankind for Christ's return.
We see the similarities, but these two advents also form a contrast with one another. In the first advent, God the Son became visible by taking human nature into union with Himself: He took a human body and soul to be forever the shrine of His Divinity. The second advent, however, is an actual movement: the Sacred Humanity of Christ will come from one place to another. He will move from heaven to earth.
And the way of coming, too, is different. At the first advent He came in weakness as a child, hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary; but at the second advent He will come "in a cloud, with power and great glory."
Notice, also, that the purpose of our Lord's coming is different in the two advents: the first time He came, it was to save the world by His passion, death, and resurrection; but the second time He comes, it will be to judge the living and the dead.
The Church forever holds these two advents in close relationship with one another. Christ's first advent has paved the way for His second coming. He came to us the first time so that we can be ready for Him when He comes again. We profess week by week in the Creed, that we believe Christ will come again. This time He won’t be hidden in Mary, being carried along by a humble beast of burden – no, this time it will be in triumph and He will be surrounded by the angels of heaven. No more being hidden from human view, no more wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger – but this time every eye shall see Him, and every tongue shall confess that He is the King and Saviour and Judge of all mankind. On that day, He will cast out all those who have refused His Gospel, all those who have been purposely unfaithful in what they have done, all those who have professed to be the servants of God but who have really served no one but themselves.
Our Holy Mother the Church gives us the season of Advent as a season of preparation, but it is to be a preparation for saying “yes” to the things of Christ. It is a time to decide if we will acknowledge Jesus as our Saviour and our King.
For too many people today, Christ is no different than He was to the vast majority of people in His own day. And that might even be the case for us. We hear of His life and of His wonderful works and of His words of grace. We hear of His love towards us, a love which led to the Cross where He offered Himself up as a sacrifice for our salvation. We hear of His coming again to judge us for all eternity, but it is possible that we hear without comprehending; that we see without really believing; that we hear without making it a reality in our lives.
Just as Christ taught those who had ears, but who did not hear, and eyes, but who did not see, so we have His glory and grace before us day after day, but sometimes we don’t discern them. We have had prayers answered, we have had sins forgiven, we have had grace bestowed, we have received His Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament, and the day will come when He will ask us, "What have you done with these things you have heard and seen and received?" The day will come when Christ will ask, "What do you really think of Me? Am I your King, or not? Will you have Me to rule over your hearts and souls, or not?" And on that day, we are going to have to answer "yes" or "no," and we will have to answer in earnest – not as we seem to now, "maybe yes" or "maybe no" – eager one day and lukewarm the next. Our true desire and intention will have to match our words, and we will have to have to say it once and for all.
As Christ came once as Saviour, so He will come again as Judge. How will we receive Him? The answer depends upon how we are receiving Him now, while He is still out of our sight. If we do not accord Him first place in our lives now, do we really think we will be able to welcome Him when He comes again?
Our time in this world is an opportunity which God has given us, a time for us to decide what and who Christ truly is for us. Either He is to be our Lord and Saviour, the King of our lives, and the One whom we seek to serve; or He is little more than a picture-book baby decorating Christmas cards. Either we will greet Him with joy as our long-awaited King, or we will tremble to hear that He has come again, and we will not be able to help shrinking away from His presence, afraid of what He will find in us.
As we stand at the beginning of another Christian year, this is the time to decide. If you have been holding back part of your life from Christ, now is the time to give it; if you have neglected any of the sacraments, now is the time to examine your soul and return through the confessional; if you have been drawing back from entering fully into the life of Christ's Body, the Church, now is the time to take that place He has made for you; if you have offended God or man, now is the time to seek forgiveness; if you have neglected your prayers, now is the time to sink to your knees; if you have ignored those who are in need, now is the time to be open-handed and generous; if your life has been empty, now is the time to let Christ fill it. And when that day comes, as it surely will, that the Son of God, our Saviour Jesus Christ, comes "in a cloud with power and great glory," we can know that the crown of righteousness awaits us, which the Lord, the just Judge, will award to us on that day – and not only to us, but to all who have longed for His appearing.
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead; we may rise to the life immortal; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.