The season of Advent is a season of waiting and preparation.
While Advent originated as a period of fasting in preparation for the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas), this focus and inward preparation has all but disappeared culturally. Advent has become ‘the holiday season’ measured by the number of shopping days left before the twenty-fifth of December. We cram the week before Christmas with parties and shopping and decorating and the wrapping of gifts and the mailing of cards inscribed with words like ‘Peace on Earth’ or ‘Joy to the World’, even though we too often feel anything but peaceful and joyful as we scurry around checking things off our endless to-do list.
If we were to observe Advent as the season of thoughtful reflection and repentance that it has traditionally been, we would have an opportunity to do just that: to rethink our priorities, to realign our lives with God’s desires for us, to seek forgiveness and to start anew. To spend the weeks before Christmas in this way is radically countercultural, to be sure, but it also serves to remind us that we are waiting for Christmas - and that the celebration of Christmas is worth waiting for.
During this Advent season we’ll read together, wait together and celebrate together.
Throughout this year we as a church have read through Matthew, Mark and John’s Gospel accounts, now concluding with the Gospel according to Luke. This reading plan will take us through the life of Christ and then circle back before Christmas to remind us of his birth.
In addition to this reading plan we’ll wait together. In English, the word wait tends to imply passivity, maybe even boredom. In Hebrew, the word for wait is also the word for hope. During Advent, these are one and the same activity (Henry Nouwen calls this ‘active waiting’).
The time of waiting and preparation is a joyful time! We can know joy because, as Mary sang in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), “God has done great things for [us]”. Throughout Advent, as a church and as individuals, we’ll celebrate together.