Daily Mass-goers might have noticed it in the readings today: the Advent season has shifted into high gear. Did it catch your attention?
Instead of general prophecies about the Messianic age and stories from the public ministry illustrating the fulfillment of those ancient hopes, we heard the first of a series of extremely specific Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament: Jacob's "blessing" of his fourth-born son, Judah: "The scepter shall never depart from Judah." In case we missed that, the Gospel gives us that long list of Jesus' ancestors, beginning with Abraham and Isaac, then Jacob, and then Judah....leading into "David the King" and up to Jesus, shown as a descendant of Judah through Joseph.
From now until Christmas, the readings will follow that same pattern: a powerful Old Testament passage with a rather direct correlation to a Gospel reading that will always be taken from the Infancy Narratives of Matthew (as today) or Luke.
The verse before the Gospel is also unique to this octave before Christmas, with the appearance of the "O" antiphons--themselves a compilation of Messianic titles leading into the heartfelt plea: "Come!"