Book excerpt: Advent means anticipation of an arrival

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, the evil White Witch has cast Narnia into a never-ending Winter.

Always Winter but never Christmas.

Time is frozen. The inhabitants of Narnia look for the coming of the two Sons of Adam and the two Daughters of Eve, which will herald the return of Aslan, the end of the unnatural Winter, a Spring Thaw, and the overthrow of the White Witch’s reign.

The Narnians suspect something is up when Father Christmas finally, finally, finally delivers presents.

In contrast, the Hallmark Channel has contrived a business model where every day is Christmas Day. Obstacles are overcome and the couple kisses in the final five minutes. Non-sectarian holiday songs are sung, plays are staged with secular symbols of a season of good cheer.

Viewers know the plot — and there’s always a happy ending.

Catholic Christians celebrate the first Sunday of Advent today. (The Christmas season starts on Christmas, with the birth of the Christ Child.)

Advent is a penitential season. We Christians know that the Babe in the Manger was born to atone for our sins. Pious legend holds that the same tree contributed wood to build both the manger in the stable and the cross at Golgotha.

We are called to ponder not only the first coming of Christ, as a baby in a stable, but also his second coming. A trait both arrivals share is surprise — yes, Jews of the time were expecting a Messiah but they weren’t expecting Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. They were expecting a king from the House of David, a warlord. Instead, they (and we) got a carpenter who told odd stories and tweaked the noses of Jewish leaders hard enough that they worked together to get him put to death by the Romans.

Rather a smack in the face for everyone! Baffling. Disheartening. Hardly fits with the dignity of God’s Chosen People. Even his inner circle of disciples was staggered.

Until Easter morning.

Do you believe in Christmas? Then you must believe in Christ, born in a manger, dead on a cross, and risen in glory.

Without Christ, there is no reason to believe in Christmas. There is no reason to believe in anything, and everything is permissible…

…until the Second Coming and General Judgement Day, when He who believes in you will weigh you in the balance whether or not you now believe in Him.

From Benedictus, a collection of daily readings from Pope Benedict XVI, for December 1:

“Advent” does not mean “expectation,” as some may think. It is a translation of the Greek word parousia which means “presence” or, more accurately, “arrival,” i.e., the beginning of a presence. In antiquity the word was a technical term for the presence of a king or ruler and also of the god being worshiped, who bestows his parousia on his devotees for a time. “Advent,” then, means a presence begun, the presence being that of God. Advent reminds us, therefore, of two things: first, that God’s presence in the world has already begun, that he is present though in a hidden manner; second, that his presence has only begun and is not yet full and complete, that it is in a state of development, of becoming and progressing toward its full form. His presence has already begun, and we, the faithful, are the ones through whom he wishes to be present in the world. Through our faith, hope, and love he wants his light to shine over and over again in the night of the world… That night is “today” whenever the “Word” again becomes “flesh” or genuine human reality. “The Christ child comes” in a real sense whenever human beings act out of authentic love for the Lord.