As this season of Advent gets underway, Christmas songs are playing on the radio, people are out shopping more than usual for gifts, and decorations and trees are up around homes.
One of the things I appreciate as a Catholic is that we do not sing Christmas songs until after Christmas. Yes, that's right; no "Joy to the World", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing", etc., until after (or on this year) Dec. 25. Instead, we sing Advent hymns, like "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and "People Look East" to name a couple familiar tunes. It seems contradictory to sing "Joy to the world, the Lord has come!" when liturgically, it hasn't happened yet!
Another thing I am appreciating more this year is that the liturgical year begins where it ends: Christ's return and God's kingdom. We end each year with the feast of Christ the King, which puts greater emphasis on the kingdom on earth, Christ's return. Advent continues this theme, because not only are we looking forward to celebrating Christ's birth, we are also at the same time looking forward to that day when he returns in his glory! This is why we can sing "People look east the time is near!" and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel."
This Advent, may we all be reminded that while the focus is on Christ's birth, we must be vigilant and look for the day he returns!