Today (Sunday) marks the beginning of Advent. The world we live in sees these few weeks leading up to Christmas as the Christmas season. Shops have had carols playing and decorations up for a week or two now. It all becomes a mad dash to get ready for Christmas day, and then it is all over. Most people would be confused if we told them that it was really Advent now, and that Christmas doesn’t start until Christmas day and carries on for the next two weeks after that. So what is Advent?
It is a time of expectant waiting for the coming of Christ. It is a time of making sure that we are awake, and have our party shoes on. We are not talking about passive waiting here, but an active alert waiting. We actively wait for God. And maybe God is actively waiting for us?
Advent also heralds the beginning of a new church year, and a new gospel to hear from. Bishop Helen-Ann Hartley notes that “(a) new Gospel unfolds before us, but not from the beginning! Advent is traditionally a time of preparation and each Sunday has a particular focus. On this first Sunday, we remember people in the Old Testament like Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, David and Solomon. We call them Patriarchs – the mothers and fathers of our faith – the people who first responded to God’s call. Advent is traditionally full of themes of judgement, another aspect of preparing ourselves to receive the Christ-child. The darkening of sun and moon indicate that creation is in disarray: judgement is now imminent. Again, we are to be alert, but not in fear; we are to live in hope of a deep transformation that lies ahead, a mystery as yet to be revealed, a birth that will change everything.”
Over the next few weeks we will actively wait in hope, peace, joy and love. To actively wait means not getting caught up in the busyness of the “Christmas season” but taking the time to slow down and pay attention to the sources of hope, peace, joy and love in our lives, and what shrouds these from us?
This week we are asked to reflect in particular on what we need to be awakened to in our lives, our community and our world, and to wonder what new ways of being we might be invited to so that we might be vessels of hope?