Embracing Advent

Many have observed the genius of the liturgical year and been nourished by it. Following this calendar, this way of keeping time fuels our most common experiences with magnified meaning and purpose. We are transported from marking time to dwelling in the fullness of time. With Advent I, we are invited to begin anew. Consider keeping the beat. Resist the frenzy of the world. Expect to be glad.

We all know that Advent is when the Church prepares to celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation, the 12-day season that begins on December 25.

Most of us are aware that we are also called during Advent to prepare for our Lord’s return at the end of time. However, there is a third way to prepare. During Advent we are challenged to look for the Lord among us now. We are called to pay attention to our longing for the Lord to be near, and to rejoice at his appearing. Advent is about being present to the here and now, about seeking and serving the Christ in everyone in all places. This takes time and the best that is in us.

Nowhere is this watch more apparent than in the seminal Advent hymn, O Come, O Come Emanuel. The text and the music give voice to our longing. This is a hymn to be savored. Its length is a clue. There is no rush here. We are meant to move around with the wisdom from on high. This hymn shapes our hearts. Sing it.

The Collects for Advent also call us to be intentional. We are to walk, not run, through this time, digesting every nuance. Each Collect merits attention in its entirety, but ponder a phrase from each as a way of moving through this time with the expectation of seeing more. Make the time. Light the candles. Say the prayers.

Advent  I
…give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light…

We begin by lighting one candle to counter the darkness. As the days get shorter, we light more, first one, then two, then three, then four. We avoid being overcome by the anxiety darkness brings, we wear the armor of light. Revel in the wisdom and hope of this practice.

Advent II
…that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer…

What is possible when we go into each encounter expecting our Lord to be present?  Try joy. Be bold. Act redeemed.

Advent III
Stir up your power, Oh Lord, and with great might come among us.

Perhaps the most anticipated collect of the year as it gives voice to our deepest longing… that we know the Lord in the middle of all we do now.

Walk through the days of the third week of Advent with these words on your lips, in your heart. Dare to call the Lord to come among us. Look for Him.

Advent IV
Purify our conscience Almighty God, by your daily visitation…

This petition illustrates what is available to us when we are open to knowing the Lord is among us. This phrase defines the blessing of watching and waiting…daily visitation. We come to know God is with us all the time.

May we embrace the slow, steady pace of Advent. Take time to light the candles and say the prayers. Be still. We have time to wait and watch. Be readied for the Celebration to come…all 12 Days of the Feast of the Incarnation.

-by The Rev'd Susan Heath