“Advent! A holy season in which we connect again with our “inconsolable longing,” as C.S. Lewis called it our yearning for the One who is to come and is also, mysteriously, the One who has come already – come as a child, come as a fellow-sufferer, come as Saviour, and yet whose coming already achieved, we hold at bay from ourselves, so that we have to learn afresh each year, even each day, how to let Him come to us again.”
Malcolm Guite (Inconsolable Longing: Advent in Music and Poetry)
Advent means “to come”. Each year, we set aside this season to wait for our celebration of the coming Messiah. We attach all sorts of descriptive words to Advent such as anticipation, expectation and longing, but what we are doing… is waiting.
People don’t usually like to wait. It can be monotonous, tedious and even unbearable. It doesn’t seem to matter what we are waiting for – good or bad – it is difficult and almost always a test of patience. However, the Advent season provides an opportunity to be formed into the image of Christ. Like it or not, there are gifts and discoveries that can only be found in the waiting.
The question then becomes, how do we wait?
This Advent season is not passive. It is an active waiting. We must become attentive to the season, mindfully preparing ourselves in anticipation of the coming Christmas celebration. We must also remind ourselves, and those we lead, that in the midst of our many traditions, feasts and gatherings throughout the season, we are still waiting for Christ’s return, when he ushers in his full reign over the new heaven and earth.
So now our waiting becomes purposeful. We still long for a better day, but this waiting is full of opportunity. It is a time where we seek first God’s kingdom, discovering where and how he wants us to join him in his work here and now. We must be present to the moment. If we keep our gaze on the things of the past or try to anticipate the events of the future, we miss our most important time which is right now.
How then, shall we wait and make the most of this “now and not yet” time as we live in between Christ’s first and second coming?
Advent is a gift that allows us to practice active waiting. As we enter into the incarnational Story, it becomes a formative time. All the metaphors and symbolism of the season help to centre our attention on preparing ourselves for the coming King. We must use this time wisely.
Let’s attend deeply to the season, discovering not only the rich tradition of Advent, but more importantly, encountering Jesus himself. May this waiting shape us into the image of Christ, letting Him come to us again, each and every day. May our new insights and deepening relationship with Jesus be the catalyst that sends us out to bear witness in the world through love, compassion, kindness, generosity and hope.