Hope in My Present
Hope Anchored in Traditions of the Past
The past couple weeks I have had my thoughts drawn to the coming new cycle of the Christian Calendar. I have only been practicing this discipline of living the Liturgical Year since 2007, but it has become one of my favorite and most life giving of all the disciplines I practice. I am excited about what God will teach and shape in me during this coming year.
Advent marks the beginning of the new liturgical year, a new cycle of connecting our lives to the Savior-King, Messiah Jesus. The liturgical calendar follows the time of the birth of Christ through the ascension of Christ to arrival of the Holy Spirit in Fire on the Day of Pentecost and then proceeds with “ordered” or ordinary time until we arrive at Christ the King Sunday (the last Sunday of the Christian year). I have found the Liturgical Calendar to be a wonderful exercise in keeping my mind and heart engaged with the always-present-Lord.
The Cycle of Light
Advent literally means “coming” or “arrival.” It is a time when we celebrate the promise fulfilled of the Messiah King Jesus, born in the flesh of a child some two-thousand years ago. It is also a time when we celebrate with hope looking forward to the promised return of our Eternal King, Jesus, when he will establish his kingdom forever and rule with his people on a new and wholly redeemed earth. Advent is a time of preparation, reflection, and expectant waiting. We look forward, active in the now, with hearts anticipating redemption and completion where satisfaction will be eternally gratified and met… no more longing, no more hunger, no more waiting, but until then, we do wait… with hearts expectant and preparing, we look forward to the coming and arrival of the Light.
Watchful Waiting and Christ’s Arrival
This season where we intentionally focus our attentions to waiting, we turn specifically to “three arrivals” or comings of Christ. (1) His arrival in history; the incarnation, where God became flesh in the birth of Jesus. (2) The return of Christ in his fullness and glory; the End Times of Revelation—a new Heaven, a New Earth—where God in Triune Wholeness comes once again to dwell with humankind for all eternity. (3) His spiritual arrival and entrance into our lives as Lord and Savior—His salvation to us and indwelling of us in the Holy Spirit.
“The question with which the liturgical year confronts us is a direct one: what does the life of Jesus now mean to us? …By taking us into the depth of what it means to be a human on the way to God…the liturgical year breaks us open to the divine.” -Joan Chittister
Bobby Gross reminds us “The Biblical scope of Advent stretches from the garden in Genesis to the New Jerusalem in Revelation.” Advent concerns first and last things indeed, but it also includes the tension of all points in between. Eugene Peterson paraphrases and exposits a deeper look into the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Rome with these words from Romans chapter eight.
All around us, we observe a pregnant condition. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it is not only around us; it is within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. (Romans 8:22-25 The Message)
We are hopeful, active, partners with God; we are expectant, standing on the shoulders of tradition past as we look forward in our wait…even as He works within us in the now.
“We must do more than simply go through the Advent calendar; we must develop in us an Advent heart.” -Joan Chittister
Postures for Advent
There is tension in the wait; we fluctuate as the Apostle reminds us (Romans 8:22-25) we groan and we rejoice in the expectancy of what is and what is to come. We allow ourselves the permission to sing with joy and lament with sorrow during our season of waiting. The noises and clamor of “busy” is pervasive and unrelenting this time of year; we can be intentional about practicing restraint and making opportunities for retreat from all the distractions. Know that Christ has come and with the reality of that promise and the gift of his Holy Spirit indwelling, we can be expectant, alert, and open to his voice within and his voice without…He is our Teacher, Guide, Counselor, and Comforter. Be ever vigilant and on the lookout for our encounters with the Sacred and Divine.