Like the rhythms of our daily routines and like the flowing confluence of the seasons from winter into spring into summer into autumn into winter again, the Church has a cadence in its life and activities. There is the steady beat of Sunday-to-Sunday worship. There is also the annual punctuation of our congregational rhythms by the events of the liturgical calendar, which, in more ways than we ever know, affect nearly all churches in Protestantism and Catholicism worldwide.
Christmas, of course, is one of the highlights of every year’s happenings, a bright shining star among the constellations of spiritual meaning.
Easter, too, beams like the sun at the center of the churchly “solar system.” All events on the Christian journey pulse their way toward the culmination of Resurrection Sunday.
In between and after, other less famous yet no less significant “high holy days” occur: Epiphany, Eastertide, Pentecost, and the long, green extension of “Ordinary Time.”
To begin it all, at the beginning of the Church year, is Advent, the stint of time spanning the four Sundays prior to Christmas. This is a time of anticipating, of watching, of gestation, of waiting. “The hopes and fears of all the years,” as the sacred carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” describes them, move with great purpose through this brief season of expectation.
To put it simply, in Advent we wait. This is true in so many ways at this time of year – religiously, socially, and commercially.
We wait as days grow shorter and as night-time brightens with a carnival of illuminations. We wait like children on tiptoe reaching toward the first day of first grade, and we wait like a bride and groom getting ready for their nuptial blessings, a mixture of giddiness, glory and high anxiety. We wait for the arrival of beloved relations, and we wait for their eventual departure.
What are we waiting for in Advent? An untold number of things for every person, every family, every neighborhood, every country, every continent.
We’re waiting for hopes (and hopes fulfilled) to be resident in every person’s heart.
And we’re waiting for peace to be ultimately real in Jerusalem and Johannesburg, in Ireland and Iraq, in Beijing and Boston, in every other place where human beings have staked a claim for freedom, reconciliation and justice.
And we’re waiting for joy not only to glimmer but to glow with a fervent fire in the eyes of grandparents and grandchildren. And we’re waiting for such joy to be found especially among those, who, heretofore, have not found life very en-joy-able.
And we’re waiting for love to be spoken in the lips and heard in the ears and held in the hearts of everyone, regardless of their worthiness, maybe even because of the fact of their unworthiness.
And we’re waiting for God’s presence to be equally real, really real, in our very midst – at the checkout line at the grocery store and the check-in counter at the airport, at the library and at the hardware store, at the car dealership and at school, in elevators and in restaurants, at the breaking of dawn and at the denouement of each day’s ending, among friends and in the midst of enemies, in the good strong times of our great achievements and in the private despairs of our most profound defeats.
So we are waiting. I welcome the annual arrival of the Advent season, as we “wait our way toward Christmas” with purpose and gladness
– Bob Hill
© 2016, Robert Lee Hill