The Church year begins with Advent, observed on the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. Advent has two foci related to the general theme of the coming of God in Jesus Christ (adventus – Latin, meaning arrival).

The first emphasis is on Jesus’ final coming in glory and the need for Christians to be vigilant and ever ready, because no-one knows the “time or the hour”. The second is on the immediate preparation for the ministry of Jesus embodied in John the Baptist and his preaching.

The Gospel readings for the fourth Sunday of Advent always prepare for the Christmas season by recalling the events in the life of Mary and Joseph prior to Jesus’ birth.