Don’t Miss Out!

This year the Fourth Sunday of Advent happens to fall on Christmas Eve. Because of this, the liturgical calendar challenges us a little bit. It asks just a little more from us. Some of us will attend Mass twice on December 24th! Does it matter if we only attend one Mass this weekend? The answer is that it matters very much. It matters because of what Advent is, and who Jesus is and who we are; not because of some rule about Mass attendance. That is important but not the whole picture.

Advent is not simply a few weeks leading up to Christmas. In many ways, Advent is a season that stands on its own, just as Christmas is a season that does so. These weeks of expectation and preparation ready us for the very presence of Jesus. We could replace “Santa” with “Jesus” whenever we ask or hear eager questions like “When will [Jesus] be here?”, or whispers of “I think I hear [Him].” An element of expectation comes with the story of Santa Claus that has a nearly irresistible sense of childish delight. And, when he’s finally arrived, all of that built up anticipation–all the anxious hours of waiting, all the uncertainties and anxieties — explode in the delighted shout, “He came!”

To some degree, that’s what the Advent season is all about. Then again, it’s so much more than that. Not only are we waiting for the coming of Christ in a manger in Bethlehem on a night long ago, we also long for him to come to us in our lives today and look forward to His Second Coming. Somehow, we need to recapture that same sense of eager expectation, if we’re going to appreciate what it was like to live on the verge of the New Testament. God poured out some amazing promises on his people throughout the Old Testament: a new king, a new sacrifice, a new spirit, a new heart, a new covenant, a new creation. For centuries, God’s people consistently heard God’s promises, hoping that he had not abandoned them, yet fearing that he had done just that.

For us who live on this side of that first Christmas, it’s sometimes easy to forget all the years of waiting and uncertainty, because we also live on this side of Easter. We are witness to the promises kept, the Word made flesh, and Redeemer Resurrected. Advent reminds us that the waiting was not in vain. God kept his promises. He always does. We can take some time this season to remember God’s faithfulness to his waiting people. Advent calls us to wait faithfully in our own time. Just like God’s people in the Old Testament, we are waiting for the coming of the Messiah. And just like them, we often struggle with the waiting. With carols playing the day after Halloween in stores, and cute shopping day countdowns to “the big day” on Facebook, we are susceptible to a “hurry up” attitude that tempts us to short-change ourselves. Advent reminds us that we are supposed to be waiting. We begin Mass the First Sunday of Advent with this opening prayer, “Keep us alert, we pray, O Lord our God, as we await the advent of Christ your Son, so that, when he comes and knocks, he may find us in watchful prayer and exultant in his praise.” In a distracted world, this is easy to forget. Advent offers respite. Advent helps us remember that we’re waiting for something more important than a new [insert your Christmas list here] on Christmas morning.

By reminding us of the past, Advent calls us to be faithful “waiters” in the present and perhaps, even more importantly, after Christmas. “He is coming! Don’t lose hope! He will come again!” Finally, the Advent season means to draw our eyes toward the future and the final coming of Jesus Christ.   As we turn the page from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we pass through a time of anxious waiting, arriving at the birth of the Messiah and the beginning of the time of fulfillment. But, as central as Christmas is to the Christian story, it points toward something more — that time when the Messiah will come in all his glory, establishing his Kingdom and redeeming his people forever — the time when hope becomes reality, when promise becomes present, when not yet becomes now, the time when all of God’s people will join together in one delighted shout, “He came!”

You will read this with just a few very short hours left of the Advent season. I urge you not to waste it or hasten to get to Christmas. Give yourself just a little more time of anticipation. Let yourself feel the uncertainties of those who wait. Allow yourself to long for the one who is still coming. Take some time this season to hope. Let Advent draw your vision toward the future. Just as before, God will be faithful. He has promised. The Messiah is coming. And when he comes, all of God’s promises will be fulfilled. Waiting is not easy, but it’s part of our story. May God bless you. I wish you the most blessed of Advents – still.

Lisa Amos
Pastoral Associate

 

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