524 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 Saviour’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.”
Of course, as Christians we all anticipate the Second Coming of Jesus. Sometimes I think we forget just what that actually means. We are basing or hope and expectation on prophecy. We have been promised that there will be an ultimate day of glory and a last judgment. During Advent, we tend to focus on a remembrance of the physical birth of Jesus. It isn’t a “real” anticipation of the unknown, because we already know that Jesus was born over 2000 years ago. We kind of celebrate anticipation of the event, and we try to do things to make Christmas something special in a temporal sense surrounding the event of the birth of Christ. We remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus by attending Mass, by reading the story of the Nativity, by placing the baby Jesus in the manger, and so on. We celbrate with family by opening presents, having a special meal, eating treats, etc. But Advent is bigger than just that. The very belief in a Second Coming of Jesus means all things as we know it comes to an end. We REALLY believe it! He will appear. He will judge. He will inaugurate the passing away of the old heaven and old earth. It all ends. And just like those Old Testament people of Israel and the prohets of old, we are actively anticipating the Messiah. In our case, it is an anticipation of His return, different from His birth. We are still anticipting the fulfillment of a prophetic promise. Ultimately, every last prophecy we evaluate – both public and private – has its culmination in this event.
Perhaps the prophecies are a warning of chastisement prior to this time, or a foretaste of a time of peace before greater upheaval. Perhaps they are specific to times and places and events, or more general. But the entire mosaic of more specific prophecy cannot overshadow the ultimate and broad things it is intended to address: redemption, salvation, the final and complete defeat of all evil, and the return of Christ. It points to hope.