(A basic little something I wrote for practical purposes at my church. The season of Advent is quite the season for hopeful realism, by the way.)
Time, how it’s used and its soul-shaping quality, is really important in Christian spirituality. The daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms of our lives are not a neutral aspect of the life of faith.
This is always been recognized in the tradition.
Early Christians, using the Jewish rhythms — feasts, holy days, etc. — as a point of departure, began to think of the yearly Christian experience in seasons. This is where we get the idea of the church calendar.
Advent is one such season.
Advent is not Christmas. It’s the season before Christmas, intended to guide us into the desperate longing and somewhat frustrated waiting that has always been associated with the people of God. Longing and waiting for God to come to rescue, fulfill, deliver, restore, make things new and fresh.
Think of profound things you’ve had to wait for. Think of that weird frustration/swirling angst/sometimes faint hope/painful longing you felt. That feeling comes close to the heart of the Advent season.
At Advent, we enter into the desperate longing and somewhat frustrated waiting of the people of Israel, as they hoped and anticipated the arrival of God’s anointed, king-like figure, foretold in the shadowy, mythic oracles of the prophets. This anointed-one would somehow play a role in the re-establishment of Lord’s rule and reign in the world. We feel their desperation, and taste the seemingly delusional hope that their God just might be the kind of God who would break-in and make things right and new.
At Advent, we also enter into desperate longing and somewhat frustrated waiting of Christians everywhere, as we hope and anticipate the re-arrival of Christ. He snuck into our world in a unnervingly ordinary way the first time. The second time will be a different story.
And the great Christian hope is that he will appear to finish the job he started. To re-assert his rule and reign in a final and complete way.
Again, we long, hope and wait. All the while remembering that our God just might be the kind of God who would bring such total and complete restoration.
The Christian journey is lived in the tension of these two Advents, arrivals, comings. God’s kingdom’s re-establishment has been launched in Jesus’ arrival. This kingdom is here, but not quite fully here yet. It will be here fully (eventually) but for now we wait.
By the way, if this living-between-comings doesn’t explain a lot about our lives and our world, I don’t know what does.
Advent is the season when we enter into this story. When, in a uniquely focused manner, we read, think, pray, long, wait and hope along these lines.
If you are in need of Christ in a fresh way in the very mundane ordinary realities of you life, if there are things that only he can give for which you are longing, hoping and waiting, then the Advent season is for you.
Christ came. Christ comes. Christ will come.