The In Between Time
Advent is a parable of reality
We are beginning that season of the year known in the church as Advent. Advent is a time of preparation. The Latin derivative means literally "to come." During these weeks we focus our attention on the coming of Jesus Christ into our world. We consider the words of the prophets and their expectations for the coming Messiah. We ponder the meaning also of those texts in the New Testament that speak of Christ's return to rule, to judge, and to save.
Advent is a parable of reality; the great reality behind all the ho-hum's of our every-day existence. During these next twenty-nine days we will rehearse in small scale, what God is always doing in grand scale. During Advent we lift up the themes and rhythms of human life: remembrance and hope; promise and fulfillment; expectation and surprise. It is the Story behind all the stories of our hopes and dreams. It is seen in our folklore and mythology. It is the Cinderella story where good overcomes evil and light banishes darkness. It is Beauty and the Beast where love transforms ugliness into beauty. It is Dickens’s Christmas Carol where smallness and miserliness are changed into compassion and joy. Advent is the promise that all the hopes and dreams of humanity have come true in Jesus Christ.
We can understand Christ's coming in three different ways: his historical coming in his birth, his coming at the end of history, and his coming into our own present by the Holy Spirit. The church that genuinely experiences the coming of Christ into its own midst most fully embodies this presence when it extends its love to those within its community and those beyond itself. That is why between the two Advents of Christ, we are to work to make the church and the world a truer reflection of "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
As a child I remember waiting for Christmas Eve to come so badly I could taste it. We had a ritual in our family that late Christmas Eve afternoon we would tumble into the car and go to my grandparent’s home to join the whole extended family. It was a traditional Swedish Christmas with a huge buffet of "in loch sil," limpa bread, Swedish meatballs, plum pudding flaming in Brandy, and lots of caroling and cavorting. By nine o'clock all the children would be in bed, and if we were asleep by midnight, my parents promised, Santa would arrive. Sure enough, at midnight we were awakened from our reveries by Santa's sleigh bells and hearty "Ho, ho, ho." We would always miss him as we dashed down the stairs and alternately looked up into the midnight sky or the chimney flu. But just as our parents promised there was a mound of presents half way up the tree where there had previously been none.
That kind of waiting was delicious. The anticipation was almost always more fun than the promise fulfilled. But we could endure it because the promise of our parents was always fulfilled. And we can wait expectantly during Advent because all the promises of God have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ and will remain ever sure.
May God grant you a rich and blessed Advent and Christmas!