Advent brings a bit of a conflict for us. On the one hand, it is most certainly a time of waiting with expectation as we look forward to the birth of Jesus and celebrating Christmas. On the other hand, as soon as Thanksgiving leftovers are put away, Christmas music, lights, and shopping center Santas appear with abundance as the season brings with it a sense of arrival. At the same time, the Christmas season has arrived, and, for the Church, it is not yet, given that for the four weeks before Christmas it is the season of Advent.
Such a conflict is appropriate for Advent. It is a time of hopeful expectation and active waiting. It is a time when we journey with Mary and Joseph as they actively and faithfully prepare for and move toward the birth of Jesus. Along the way, pregnant Mary sings of the coming birth and the future story of her son in the past tense (Luke 1:46-55). Her singing of Jesus’ future life and ministry as if it is already done is a rich statement of hope as we hear her draw the future into the present. She “see’s” that which is not yet.
In the western Christian tradition, Christmas begins Christmas Day, or after sunset on Christmas Eve, depending on the tradition. It continues for the 12 days of Christmas to January 6 (Three Kings Day) and the beginning of Epiphany, a season to look forward to Jesus’ ministry and mission to the world. No matter the calendar, though, to say that once Christmas arrives, we’ll get into the Christmas Season seems silly because Advent is so full of Christmas.
As a faithfully hopeful and expectant people, Advent is so pregnant with Christmas that we can see that which has yet to come. This is a welcome conflict for us. By our faith, we see what God has for us and is not yet.
As we enter and travel through Advent, we will experience an active waiting as we faithfully expect and prepare for Jesus’ birth. This is a time of illumination for us as we prepare for what God is seeking to birth in our lives and all creation. In our Advent worship time, we’re invited to seek God’s illumining Spirit as we look ahead. What does God have for you in this season? What new birth awaits? What does the new beginning look like, and how does this engage us in the new births that God is longing for in all creation?
Let us seek illumination from God, that we may accommodate in our lives that which has yet to come. After all, Advent is pregnant with Christmas!