Happy New Year! That’s right. Today, as we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year. Therefore it is most appropriate for us to wish one another a happy new year. Why? Read on!
Christians live in cyclical, not linear time. We begin each liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent and end it with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King. Then we begin the cycle over again. This is a reminder to us that life is eternal, as represented by the circle, or continuous cycle of the liturgical year. We celebrate the same events over and over again until they come to their fulfillment at the end of the age when the Lord Jesus will return in glory and the Kingdom will come into its fullness.
Once again it is appropriate for us to look at nature to help us understand all of this. The four seasons of the year: spring, summer, autumn and winter, remind us of this circle, this cycle. Just as the liturgical year celebrates the dying and rising of Jesus Christ, so, too, does nature through its annual cycle of dying and rising.
In the springtime of the year nature comes alive! The seeds planted in the ground begin their process of decaying so that the life within can sprout forth. During the warm days of summer growth continues, and in the autumn of the year the plant reaches its full potential, shining forth in all its glory. Then death sets in as winter claims it. After the long sleep of winter, spring comes again and the cycle starts all over.
For us human beings the springtime of life begins at birth. We enter into the summer of our lives as we mature. Eventually we move into the “golden years,” which is the autumn of our life. And then, as with nature, we experience the winter of our life as death claims our mortal body. But we know, through faith that the seed within that died in the springtime of the year blossoms forth to its full potential. It is then that we are most fully human, fully alive!
Advent invites us to focus on the three comings of Christ: his birth in Bethlehem, his coming into our lives in the present, and his return in glory at the end of the age. As we repeat the cycle, year after year, we are called to reflect on the cycle of our own life: our birth into the new life of Christ at baptism, our living that new life in the present, and our ultimate destiny, eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
May this Advent Season be a time of grace and growth for all of us. May the love and outrageous generosity of our God inspire us each day so that the true meaning of Christmas will be alive each and every day of this liturgical year.