Today marks the beginning of Advent, a time of watchfulness, waiting and renewed hope, as we get ready to welcome the Lord into our hearts and lives this Christmas.

The First Reading focuses our gaze on God’s promise to David to raise up a ‘virtuous branch’. God fulfils that promise by sending his only Son, Jesus, into the world: our Saviour and King in whom we can have total confidence, who rules with honesty and integrity.

The Psalmist recognizes the Lord as his Saviour, desiring to follow his ways of truth, love and faithfuln-ess. We too join in the psalm refrain, ‘lifting up our souls’ in prayer as we wait for the Lord.

Jesus foretells the end times in the rather ominous-sounding Gospel, telling his disciples to ‘stay awake’ and not get distracted by the ‘cares of life’. But he has a message of hope too: we don’t need to be afraid, for we will see the Son of Man coming to save us. God keeps his promises, so we can hold our heads high and stand confident in his presence. Meanwhile we can pray and try to lead good lives.

St Paul tells us how we can do this in the Second Reading. We are to live as Jesus teaches, ‘loving one another and the whole human race’, and putting Jesus and his values at the centre of our daily lives.

This week as I wait for the Lord, I may like to spend some time each day prayerfully taking stock of how ready I am to receive Jesus, however, wherever and whenever he comes to me.