First a confession: I love Advent. In fact, early October is not too soon to begin listening to Christmas music, and early November is a perfect time to put up the Christmas tree (although others in my household forbid such promptness). Wrapping gifts, eating cookies and candy canes, watching TV specials, going to holiday parties – I could do this all year!
Advent, though, is a much more complex, complicated and confusing time than that. Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “coming.” The season is about the eager anticipation of God’s reign coming in fullness and the joyful anticipation of the coming of the Messiah.
As Gary W. Charles writes, “Advent is unpredictable time, unsteady time. In this time-tumbling season, we look for a baby to be born while we know that the baby has already been born, and still is being born in us – this Emmanuel who came and is coming and is among us right now.”
It’s a lot like how we talk about the Realm of God, which as Jesus told us, has begun here on earth and yet is still coming. Here, and yet to come. Just like the birth of the Christ child – it’s happened, and yet it is still happening and will happen into the future.
Still, that leaves us waiting. But what do we do while we’re waiting? Well, as I heard from my mother more times than I like to remember, “Don’t just sit on your thumbs, get to work!”
We prepare for the Realm of God that is already here and still coming. We seek justice, we pray, we strive to be at one with our God. We open our hearts to the Spirit and our wallets to the needy. We smile at strangers. We strain to see the likeness of God in people we don’t like. We comfort the battered. We sit in quiet contemplation and consider where God is present in our lives. And we embrace everyone, regardless of their background, political leanings, sexual orientation or any other label system set up to create an “us” and a “them.” We love.
Leonard Beechy calls Advent “twilight time,” drawing on a Celtic tradition of “the time between the times,” like the thin places where we feel the presence of the divine. As Beechy writes: “The church exists to remind us that we live in the time between the times, between what is dying and what is being born, between the ‘already’ of Christ’s reign and the ‘not yet’ of Advent.”
May this season be a thin place for you, and may you reach out through that thin place to touch the God who is here and yet to come.
Peace be with you, Pastor Gage