Advent, despite how we may often elevate it to a level above most other liturgical seasons, cannot be stopped or preserved. The time is at best a modest gift graciously given for preparation, and at worst a double-sided candle threatening the hand that holds it. A breath in the cold winter air, it floats away uncaught. The beat of a heart, it cannot be paused. A call from out of the distance, catching some ears but falling faint short of others. Yet, even in the grief felt by its loss, Advent remains a marker along the road pointing us toward something greater up ahead: the birth of the Christ child, the return of the Risen Lord. Perhaps the season is made not so much for joyfulness, as much as we seek to inject it with our forced glee. Are not confusion and disappointment, a search for meaning, and nostalgic temptations part of the preparation for the long awaited God made man. Advent bears the bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes, of life not in its glory but rather amidst its often times painful reality.
Advent is not an end in itself, but instead a means to both a beginning and an end. In this season of looking and listening for God, we prepare not just for the coming Christ child to be born in our midst—commencing the salvation narrative, but also we await the return of this same Risen Lord—concluding our earthly sojourn in the culmination of all things made new. We are not perfected, but only primed during this time. Advent is of exceeding importance for us consumed by a consumerist culture which constantly draws us to focus on ourselves at the expense of those in need around us. As such, it cannot be discarded as being superfluous. The season is simultaneously an intentional time reminding us that we are always to be ready for Christ’s coming, and a continually ongoing work of the Holy Spirit—daily calling us to prepare ourselves in all facets of life for the One who was, who is, and who is to come. In these final days of Advent, may we each be so blessed as to find time to pause and pray. Look within and around you, listen for the Spirit’s stirrings. Christ is coming—the prophesied one, a babe born in a manger. Christ is coming—the proclaimed one, the Risen Lord returning to finish God’s work in the world and put everything back together again. Even as we fail to engage the fullness of Advent here and now, may we consider how we can acknowledge, contemplate on, and practice more holistically the advent that is our journey of faith. In Christ, may we be found by peace, love, and joy—and made ready.