Collect for the First Sunday of Advent, Book of Common Prayer (see below)
We are arrived at the beginning of the New Year. Yes, to the world, the New Year is still a month and two days off, but for the Church, the year begins in Advent. It is initially odd to think that the Church Calendar begins in Advent. Advent, after all, is a time of waiting, waiting for the coming of Christ. It is as if the New Year begins only to stop suddenly in its tracks, sit down and wait for something. Yet, on further reflection how immensely appropriate is this. After all, the whole of Creation began in waiting. The story of Genesis 1 gives a sky and heavens awaiting the stars, sun, and moon as well as birds; it gives us land and water waiting to be filled with land beasts and sea creatures. Then it gives us animal, vegetable, and mineral creation (as well as the Angelic) awaiting the coming of humanity. Humanity’s story is then one of waiting. We wait for the one for whom Creation was made; we wait for the one who will crush the serpents head; we wait for the one who will make all things new. Creation began in waiting and so it is fitting that each new year begins in waiting.
So what do we wait for? In a word Christ. You see, the whole Church Calendar works as a macrocosmic version of Holy Communion. In the Eucharist we make present again both the Last Supper and Christ’s sacrifice. In the Church Calendar, we make present again the great events of Christ’s life and the life of the early Church. In Advent, therefore, we wait with the people of Israel who waited for the branch from the root of Jesse; we wait with Mary for the birth of the baby she had had promised to her by the angel. We make present again that time of waiting before Christ came out into the world. But unlike the celebrations of Israel, the root of our celebrations in the Church, we are not simply making present an event from the past. In Advent, we remember that we too are waiting for Christ. We are waiting for his return.
So Advent is a time for us to bring to the forefront of our minds that we are a waiting people. We are a people on hold as we await the return of our King. This is why it is so important that the year, for the Church, begins in waiting. We must be reminded that this world is not the end. That we are citizens of Heaven and we await a Saviour from there. This is the message of Advent.
What are you waiting for this Advent?
How does waiting for Christ change the way you wait for other things?
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Collect for the First Sunday of Advent, The Book of Common Prayer, Church of England
Image: Great Panagia, icon from the Saviour Minster in Yaroslavl, now in the Tretyakov Gallery. Kiev School, 13th Century, via Tetraktys at Wikimedia Commons.