02 December 2006

advent season

Over the centuries, the collective wisdom of Jesus' followers have found it helpful to shift emphases in their worship and prayer during different phases of the year, built around the narrative of the Gospel. Liturgical calendars thus serve to provide a healthy balance in the church's teaching focus, to rehearse the great works of God in redemption, and to channel and cultivate a well-rounded piety.

The church year begins anew tomorrow with the first Sunday of "Advent," a word that suggests "approach" or "coming near." It is thus a season of anticipation and preparation of the Lord's drawing near to us, God's mission, his coming into the world to seek and save his people.

First, we look forward in hope to the second coming of our Lord when he will set all things to rights. At that time, he will bring to completion the victory over the powers of sin and death inaugurated in Christ and deliver us finally and fully from the world of sin, the flesh, and the devil. In view of this redemption we now, by hope, persevere in the present tension of a good creation not yet fulfilled.

But, second, we also await the Christmas celebration of his first coming, looking back in faith to remember what God has already done. Living in between the times, and unlike God's old covenant people, we know our Lord as the Incarnate One in whom all God's promises for humanity have already come to fulfillment and remain "Yes" and "Amen." In the cruciform strength of Jesus' accomplishment we, by faith, participate in the mission of God.

And, third, we also wait, watch, and pray in the love of Christ who comes to be present among us right now. We find him in the word of the Gospel, holding out God's forgiveness to us. We meet Christ in words of pardon and of blessing, in proclamation and prayer, in water and bread and wine, in the love of one another, in the stranger and the hungry. In the face of Christ's presence among us we, in love, live out the values of his kingdom within the church and in the world.

May God bless you this Advent season and his Spirit encourage you to watch and pray for his coming.