Today we celebrate the beginning of the Church year, the First Sunday of Advent. While the rest of the world (at least the western world) celebrates January 1 as the start of the new year, the Church recognizes today as the beginning of the liturgical year. It makes perfect sense. How better to celebrate the start of a new year than to spend four weeks preparing for the coming of the Lord?
I suppose we could start the year on December 25. After all, that’s the day when it all began. Or was it? Did it all begin when Jesus was conceived? Or did it really begin when Mary was immaculately conceived? One event leads to another. Isn’t it better if we begin with a short period of preparation before the really big event, Jesus’ birth, Christmas Day? I think so.
But why is it that on December 31 we humans throw huge parties and attend grand celebrations (or at least watch them on TV) when the Church’s New Year’s Day, the first Sunday of Advent goes largely unnoticed. There are no big parties. The ball doesn’t drop in New York City. For most of us, even Catholics, the day when the vestments change from green to purple is mostly just another Sunday. And that’s too bad.
What really happens on January 1? We change our secular calendars. Heck, even the calendars we distribute in church start with January 1. 1/1/13 will be a day off for most people. The date has significance for taxes and financial purposes, but in the big picture, the one that includes eternity, isn’t December 2 far more significant than January 1? When you and I meet Jesus face-to-face, do you think He’s going to ask what bowl games we watched on January 1, or is He going to ask us what we did to prepare for His coming? I think you know the answer to that.