COME LORD JESUS by Bob Doyle
(A SHORT HISTORY OF ADVENT)
It is ironic that the early Church struggled with establishing the season of Advent. Once the Church settled on a calendar, Lent was kind of a no-brainer. The Crucifixion and Resurrection tell a story that makes perfect sense for a period of penance and redemptive acts in, what Christians believe to be, the given path to salvation. Forty days shows up everywhere in the Old Testament so Lent was inevitable in preparation for Easter. But what about Christmas?
The Incarnation had its own message that needed time to be understood and accepted. The early Church Fathers understood this but first they had to clarify what exactly that message was. Again fixing on one calendar played a role. In the 4th and 5th centuries 40 days were set aside in the Church calendar to prepare for the Epiphany. This had become the time for new initiates to prepare for baptism. It wasn’t until the 6th century that the Roman Church established Advent not as a preparation for Christ’s birth but rather as a time to prepare for his second coming or the End of Days. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that the Church began using the Advent Season to celebrate Christ’s birth. But this newer sense of the Lord’s Advent did not supplant preparation for the Second Coming.
So what is the true purpose of Advent? First it is about learning how to wait not only for Christmas Day but for Christ’s second coming. Then it is the mystery of the Incarnation and what this means for humankind’s ultimate salvation. It is about the Redemption that God has gifted us with the arrival of His Son. And finally it is preparation for the Gift of the Incarnation itself.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory of a father’s only son full of Grace and truth. John 1:14
As we begin a new church year tomorrow with our Advent season, I am certain our parish is eager to say goodbye to this one. Last December our church year began with much hope and promise as we anticipated and then celebrated Christ’s birth. In January, we felt joy when we remembered Christ’s baptism and then baptized a total of five babies and children in that month and the next.
Our joy began to diminish, though, when this virus threat coincidentally arrived during our 40-day Lenten season. The virus lingered and sadly encroached far beyond that solemn and penitential season and forced us to cancel our in-person Easter celebration and many of our cherished activities and traditions. More important and even worse, there continues an incalculable loss of life, health and livelihood for millions of people worldwide.
We learned this year the virus remains indifferent to all persons, and the calendar. Tomorrow, we can say goodbye to the church year but unfortunately we need to wait a bit longer to bid adieu to this virus. The COVID pandemic continues to challenge us as we work to keep everyone attending in-person worship safe and healthy. There is good news, though, as many viable vaccines may soon be available. So, we are encouraged to start looking forward to healthier and brighter days ahead.
Speaking of “brighter days”, we wait once again for that “light of Christ” to emerge from the darkness at Advent’s conclusion on Christmas Day. Tomorrow begins our time to “prepare” and ready ourselves for the blessed hope and the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ.
To that end, we work to maintain some sense of normalcy, hope, tradition—and connection–through this dark and challenging time. With that intention, I am grateful to Andrea Pugh for suggesting and implementing a Parish Advent Reflection project. For 27 days, beginning tomorrow, you will receive a parishioner’s Advent or Christmas reflection through your email.
I took a sneak peek at them and found them to be thought provoking and charming; they also give glimpses into different parish family traditions, history, and faith journeys. I believe these reflections can help connect—or reconnect you—to each other and encourage you to prepare for “the coming” of our Lord with joy and expectation.
Thank you to Andrea Pugh, Nancy Leizear, Wendy Gilbert and Karen Schaeffer for organizing, editing, and formatting this project. Much appreciation goes to the 27 parishioners who submitted a reflection to share.
At St. Mary Anne’s, we remain focused on our mission, and to “keep the light on”–the light and hope of Christ–for all of you. We hope you enjoy these reflections, and pray they encourage you to keep the light on Christ as you await His Coming in Glory.
For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light .