We are only nine days away now from the Christmas Mystery – the birth of Emmanuel, the coming of the Christ in the Incarnation. At Christmas, we celebrate with great amounts of joy the coming of Jesus Christ as an infant. God becomes man and dwells among us. The Word that always is is now Incarnate. The Little Child is God eternal!
As we continue in the week that follows Gaudete Sunday, I found it fitting to provide to you three paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that talk about the preparations of the Christmas Mystery. Focusing on the main character of this past Sunday’s Gospel, St. John the Baptist, the Catechism explains the importance of his role in Salvation History as the precursor of the coming of the Messiah. Furthermore, the Advent Season prepares for this coming as well as the second coming when Christ will return.
The Catechism states,
The coming of God’s Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare it over centuries. He makes everything converge on Christ: all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the “First Covenant.” He announces him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel. Moreover, he awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming. (#522)
St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way. “Prophet of the Most High,” John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom,” whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom. (#523)
When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (#524)
Keep in mind that Christmas is still not here for us Christians. Although the world is celebrating Christmas right now and has been for multiple weeks in the retail shops, we must continue our focus on preparing for the Coming of the Messiah. If you have a Nativity set in your home, make sure you don’t place baby Jesus in it until December 24/25. For when Christmas arrives, we celebrate an entire liturgical season and not just one day.