If we Southern Californians are good at anything at all, it’s creating expectation. We can generate years of anxious waiting for a blockbuster film. While the ink is still wet on the first contract, the studio dribbles out the first of its many leaks to the press. Who might direct the film? Who might star in it? Then, once the personnel are in place, come the little bits of footage. Then come the trailers — and we’re still a year away from release!

Well, God’s even better at the game. The seeds were still sprouting in the Garden of Eden when He first promised to send a redeemer. Then He made covenants. Then He sent prophets. Their messages were curious, tantalizing and sometimes shocking and strange. But the details started to add up.

By the first century B.C., the Jews knew quite a bit about what God was planning. His anointed redeemer would be a priest and a king. He would reveal the power of God to the nations. He would restore the fortunes of Israel.

And he would be coming soon — very soon.

If you read the documents known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in the late 1940s, you can sense the excitement — and you can begin to understand the wonder and anxiety Jesus provoked. People were waiting for just such a man to appear.

Yet, in many ways, He defied their expectations by exceeding them. He came not as a warrior-king, but as a Prince of Peace. He came not to crush the enemies of Israel, but to welcome them into the family.

What He has accomplished since then is remarkable. But you already know that.

The fact is, however, that his Advent continues. He’s still coming to us. He’s still fulfilling the promises “leaked” by God through the prophets.

The people who were ready to receive Jesus in the first century were those who were tuned in to the prophets — those who took God at His word — those who knew something big was afoot.

Are you and I so attuned today? Do we take God at His word? Do we know that something big is happening now?

That’s what Advent is for. It’s not “Christmas shopping season.” It’s bigger than that. It’s the time when the Church calibrates its readings and prayers — every Sunday, but every weekday too — to generate expectation. To stir our hearts. To get us ready to receive the Messiah.

After all, that’s what we should want for Christmas — to receive the Prince of Peace.

And we’ll get what we want if we start preparing now, not by shopping till we drop, but by entering in more earnest and more disciplined prayer. Is there any chance I might see you at Mass a little more this month? If you’re already going every Sunday and every holy day, bravo! But think about dropping in some time during the week — to get a little more prepared, a little more excited.

Christmas this year promises to be the biggest blockbuster — even better than the trailers, even better than the hype. Get ready now.