Wednesday, December 4, 2013
On the surface of it, Advent is simply the church's four-week season to prepare for Christmas.
But we must recognize Advent in and of itself - not simply as the time to go Christmas shopping.
The themes of Advent are hope and expectation, watching and waiting for the Lord's coming. And in sharp contrast to the culture and the hysteria of the season, Advent points us forward by having us look back. Which is why it comes at the start of the church's calendar and not at the end.
Of course, on the surface, Advent beckons us to look back to the birth of Christ and to the events that led directly up to it. But it goes back much further than that.
Advent reminds us that before there can be "a new heaven and a new earth," there first has to be an earth. It reminds us that the same God who created and and redeemed all things is the same one who is coming back to restore the whole creation. That means that even the most mundane, ordinary, everyday things and people in our lives are extremely important and extraordinary.
Advent reminds us that "the fullness of time" we see in the incarnation of Christ fills all times and places with the fullness of His grace and truth.
Which is why during the Advent season we talk about the three comings of Jesus. His first coming as a baby born in Bethlehem, His coming into our lives today through Word and Sacrament, and His coming again on the last day to judge the living and the dead.
Advent is all about living in the tension of the "now and the not yet". Advent is all about reminding us that this "now and not yet" is really what time is all about.
So, we await the end by remembering the beginning. We remember the beginning by awaiting the end. And we live in the middle of everything in between.
Which means we don't have to live in fear, but in stillness and peace, awaiting the end by living in the here and now. To live in Advent time is to live with eyes open wide to what the present time has for us, with arms extended to love others as we have been loved by God.