Advent Season is upon us – a season to prepare ourselves for Christmas; a season of waiting for God to come to us again. The joy of Christmas is that God has come to earth, God has walked among us and lives with us. God, who can sometimes seem so distant, so far away from our daily lives, has drawn near. We celebrate that in Emmanuel, God is with us. And yet, every year, the season of Advent precedes the celebration of Christmas. Every year we wait – again – and we need to prepare ourselves – again – for the coming of Emmanuel into our midst. Crafters of the liturgical calendar recognized that as grand as the celebration of Christmas is, as joyous the reality that God abides with us, there is also in the Christian life the experience of waiting and preparing for God to come again.
In the Christian year, the season of Advent spans four Sundays (24 days this year), while Christmas is a celebration of 12 days. Similarly, in the Christian journey, the times of longing for God’s coming often seem much longer than the moments of celebrating God’s having come. And so we live in a season of Advent, recognizing the many times in our own lives we have longed to feel God’s presence more clearly. During such times, it is easy to consider abandoning the wait, giving up on the promise of Emmanuel – and yet, as Christians throughout the centuries can attest, it is in living through the times when God seems to be absent that we gain a deeper understanding of God’s enduring presence in our lives. In fact, a big part of Christian formation is living through the waiting – not abandoning the promise of God despite the obstacles we face – not abandoning the promise that God is with us when God seems so distant to what we are going through.
As the liturgical calendar attests – the promise of Christmas comes every year, but after a season of waiting, and of preparing – after a time of claiming the promise of what is to come despite our doubts. And as we so often experience, it is because we live through the waiting that we get to the time of celebration – of promise not just longed for, but fulfilled – again.
This Advent season, let us find courage to wait together, as we claim promises not yet fulfilled. Let us cling to hope – that the joy of Christmas will come. Let us enact love – that the peace of Christmas will emerge. Let us prepare for the coming of Emmanuel, the one whom we continually long for – knowing he has already come to us, and will come to us again.