’Tis the season. Actually, in many ways, the season has already begun, hasn’t it, even though we’re not even at Thanksgiving. The trees and lights and decorations are up in downtown Concord. The heated exchanges on social media (and real life) about just when the proper time to begin singing “All I Want for Christmas is You” really is. And, of course, many of us who are Episcopalians take just a bit more pride than we probably should in how disciplined we can be about observing Advent: no Christmas decorations, no cookies, only the “right” carols, no wreaths in the church, until Christmas Eve, come hell or high water.
I am mostly kidding, of course. However, Advent as a liturgical season loses a key part of its significance when we view it only as a time of preparation for Christmas. During Advent, we do prepare our hearts once again to hear about Jesus birth. But, we are also bidden to remember that Jesus is coming back, in power, to judge the living and the dead. That’s a message we don’t hear much of, even though every Sunday we say those very words in the creeds, and often in our Eucharistic prayer as well. “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again!” Advent, says renowned Episcopalian preacher Fleming Rutledge, is about intentionally remembering where we are in history. We live between the first coming of Christ and the second.
Advent is coming.
Actually, Advent is already here. Advent is always already here, because we are always living in-between the times. The already, and the not-yet. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness is still here. Christ is already King. But, Rutledge says, we still live in territory occupied by the forces of evil. Advent is a time to watch and wait. In the midst of the frivolity and frenzy, Advent invites us to seriously consider the time in which we live, and how we might respond to the glorious news that Jesus is on the move once again.
-The Reverend Michael Whitnah