The Christian year begins with back-to-back seasons of celebration, Advent and Christmas. Advent is a season of expectancy and hope as we await the birth of Jesus. Christmas follows with a season of celebration and joy as we rejoice in the incarnation of Christ.
It’s too bad that we’re often in so much of a hurry to get to Christmas that we miss out on Advent. I don’t know if it is a product of our instant gratification culture or maybe it’s just our generalized short attention spans, but the truth is that we tend to block off in our minds a great chunk of time between roughly the middle of November and the beginning of January and call it “the holidays,” a time for general celebration and jocular festivity.
We’re so bad we can’t even wait for Advent, the season in which we are supposed to be waiting, before we start celebrating Christmas. And then when the season of Christmas arrives, as it does each year on December 25th, it is over before we even get to the three French hens, let alone lasting until Epiphany, twelve seemingly interminable days away.
“Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come,” Jesus teaches us in Mark 13:33. That kind of expectancy should be an attitude that characterizes Christian disciples, a sense that something wonderful is just about to happen. That means that each and every instant is important, and not to be rushed through on the way to something else. Expectancy means being fully aware of the present moment, which is laden with possibility.
The image of an expectant Mary is on the front page of the church website, the newsletter, and the bulletin this season, to focus our thoughts on expectation. There is no greater attitude of expectancy than of a mother in the weeks just before delivery of her baby. She is fully aware of every movement within her, as her baby stretches and hiccups and kicks and pokes. Every instant is important, and something wonderful is always just about to happen. She is excited, she is hopeful, and she is more than a little scared.
This Advent season, expect something wonderful to happen in every moment. Approach life with an attitude of expectancy, and see what a difference it makes. And this Sunday, come and celebrate the beginning of a season of expectation in worship together.
I’ll expect to see you in church!
– Andy B.