Tomorrow we begin a new Church Calendar year, with the First Sunday in Advent. Similar to Lent, Advent is a season of preparation. Unlike Lent, we are not called to spiritual disciplines per se during Advent, no fasting or silence. We are, instead, to prepare our lives for the coming of the Son of God.
Every good story has a prologue. The stage is set, the questions and surprises that get the ball rolling, pulling us in to the story. Advent is nothing more or less than God's prologue to the whole mystery of Salvation.
It is not just a time to look back. We are not only to consider Isaiah 40-55, Luke 1, Matthew 1. We are also to look around ourselves, in our lives here and how, hearing the words of St. Mary and St. Simeon as declaring realities here and now, realities we are to see, words in which we are to trust. Most of all, a path to follow on the way to meeting the living Lord.
We are also to look ahead. As the tradition has it, we live between the times. Between the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and the inauguration of the New Creation and the return of Jesus Christ in final victory and glory, gathering all who have laid their lives before him, healing this wounded creation, so that we can sit around the table God has prepared for all of us.
In this last Spirit, then, as we move from the declaration that Christ is King, that our profession of the Divine Triune Life reaches not only in to our hearts and lives, but out to all creation, so, too should we now confess our failure to anticipate the coming promised so long ago. Setting aside the fantasies of the ignorant, or the apocalyptic visions of the pathological, the dreams of a river of blood, we should instead be living each day in the footsteps of the one who leads the Way, knowing that it brings us to an end that is greater than we can imagine. A world where all creation is in harmony. Where the God of Life sits in the Temple, and light and justice and peace and life rule.
We are to be about the business of making this reality because we believe - we do not know; we believe - that it is already a reality in the resurrected Son of the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are not to kick against the pricks of fallen creation that screams in rage and fear at the very mention of the holiness and healing brought about by Jesus Christ. Rather, we are to rejoice at the rage of the powers and principalities for that means we may yet be on the only Way that leads to true life.
Folks, in order to get ready, the first thing we need to do is set our feet on that road. We need to remember that road is long, there are all sorts of dangers and distractions, and every step will be agonizing for us.
But . . . oh, my, the promise that each of us and all of us, our communities and societies and all creation will be gathered before the Throne, washed in the blood of Christ, who stands our only advocate. While you're decorating and shopping and preparing for parties and getting those stupid year-end letters sent out, remember - none of that is real preparation. Keep looking out in the world around all of us, be looking for those signs that say, "Be of good Cheer, Christ is coming soon." Live that out in as many varieties as possible.
And be glad.