The season of Advent begins this Sunday, Nov. 27 through the week of Sunday, Dec. 18.
I have a set of tasks that I try to do first thing each morning. Right off the bat, it’s a trip to the bathroom, grab a glass of water, wish I was back in bed, put on my running shoes anyway, and head off to the gym. Now that we’ve set the clocks back an hour, all of this – and half of my workout – happens before the sun would even dream of gracing Iowa with its presence.
My daily preparations usually pay off, however, as I face the eastern sky and watch the first rays of light burst over the land and shortly turn into a beautiful sunrise. This rhythm of anticipation and beginning, of ‘not-yet’ and realized, sets the tone for the rest of my day. Taking the time to prepare myself allows me to receive with greater appreciation the blessings that lie before me, and increases my awareness of the closeness of God in each moment. These pre-dawn rhythms literally orient me for the day to come.
Such is the case of Advent. Advent literally means “coming” in its Latin form, reflecting our faith that not only has God come amongst us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, but that there is a day coming when all creation will know the full Presence of God’s peace and grace. For four Sundays before Christmas, Christians around the world dwell in holy expectation as we prepare ourselves for the symbol of Christ’s arrival that is Christmas Day. Through prayer, fasting, focused scripture study, and reflection, we, too, live in the ‘not-yet’ of Advent’s pre-dawn, orienting ourselves toward the in-breaking Light of God that brings new beginnings. We wait to see the coming Son.
Advent is the beginning of a new definition of Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace that is realized by the entrance of the Christ into our world and lives. We wait, eager for the dawn that reminds us that God is not distant, but has chosen to be Immanuel, God with us, closer than the drops of sunlight upon our skin. This season of preparation, of anticipation, of setting to the joyful task of making paths within our hearts for the presence of the Divine, will eventually yield to the celebration of Light that bursts upon us in the humble majesty of Christmas’ Good News. We wait expectantly in the not-yet of the first shades of morning, having prepared through our pre-dawn rhythms, knowing that the Son will soon emerge, clear and bright, to bring hope to a weary world. Soon the promise of our faith will be fully realized: we can see the first glimpses of light on the horizon.
But for now, we wait.