Holiday Movie Extravaganza! In the course of my daily news perusal, I encountered a colorful article which outlined the most anticipated movies that will be released during the next few weeks. From epic tales to sentimental stories, from artful animation to romantic comedies, there will be a future flick for every taste and interest this winter. The paper gave a brief synopsis of each film: summarizing the plot, listing the actors and actresses, and even dishing on the “buzz” surrounding the movie: giving juicy details about behind-the-scene events, reasons why one might be excited to watch, and what laurels the movie may garner come award season. As I scanned the article, what struck me was not only how much time, money and energy must have gone into making these movies, but also the extraordinary effort and expense of promoting and creating an expectation for these films. Even the two-minute trailers that promote films are a unique art form. Part of a movie’s experience is the eager anticipation of its arrival.
Similarly, with the beginning of Advent, the Church prepares us for the celebration of Christmas. Like an exciting movie trailer, our Advent readings and prayers progressively heighten the expectation of the coming of Christ’s birth. So in the Advent spirit, let’s outline its essentials.
The Plot: When we talk about the story of Christ’s birth, we usually think of the historical nativity of the Word made flesh in a cave at Bethlehem. However, the plot of Advent follows two other important narrative threads. First, we anticipate the parousia (Greek for “advent”), the second coming of Christ in glory to judge the world. In the Gospel, Jesus says, “you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Mt. 24:44) Jesus’ admonition to be alert to his second coming is the basis of our belief in Him as our King and the foundation of our Advent joy. Second, between the historical and future comings, there is the preparing for the coming of Christ in our minds and hearts in a personal way. In the first reading, Isaiah prophesies the advent of the promised Messiah. This promise shaped (and continues to shape) the core of the Jewish faith: God’s promise of a Redeemer directs and focuses all Jewish worship, ritual and covenant. This is why the Old Testament (or Hebrew Scriptures) is still relevant for us as Catholics. Just as Moses and the prophets yearned to see the day of the Messiah, so too, we eagerly wait for the coming of Christ both now and in the future. By looking to the heroes and saints of the past, we learn how to live in the present and prepare for the future.
The Actors: The people involved in Christ’s historical birth are well known. The cast of Christmas characters familiar to us include Mary and Joseph, hosts of angels, dutiful shepherds and magi from the East. We see these figures come to life as statutes are progressively added to our beautiful crèche. However, with regard to the present and future comings of Christ, we ourselves are the main protagonists in the story. Just as the wise men sought for Christ 2000 years ago, we too are meant to set out on journey to discover Christ afresh. This journey is encouraged by the expectation that Christ is even
more eager than we can imagine to find a home in our hearts. As St. Paul tells the Romans, “it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.” (Romans 13:11)
The Buzz: So as we begin our Advent journey together, we ask: how are we expecting Christ to born anew in our lives? If we’re not expecting Christ to come to us this Advent season, chances are we’ll miss out on his presence in the midst of the hustle and bustle of these holidays. How will we prepare him room in our hearts? What gifts do we seek?
~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.