Beginning on Sunday, the Church universal will begin a new season, and the beginning of a new liturgical year. Advent is a season primed with hope and expectation of the Messiah, who comes to us in the form of a baby. I grew up with this tribal cliché which is in the form of an anecdote. It states that when you hear the sound of beating drums approaching your house, you don’t run out to meet the drummers, you wait with excitement in your house, after all they are coming to your house. The point is to encourage purposeful waiting.
It is the same with Advent. We wait with exhilarating patience and hope for the one who comes to us, not as a ruthless king but a little helpless child. Advent is a period where Mark describes in his gospel with these words “keep watch, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming…at evening, at midnight, at cockcrow or in the morning: lest when he comes, he would find you sleeping.” Marks suggestion is for us to stay awake, stay engaged, keep watch.
The old English uses the word “wæcce” which meant “watchfulness” or “wæccende” which is defined as “remaining awake.” This is to impress upon us to fight off any urge to “rest our eyes” because something incredibly magnificent and stupendous which will upend the human story, which will restore human hope in each other and in our own very selves, is about to happen and you don’t want to miss it. The question is, what is this thing which is about to happen?
It is the birth of hope. Advent, a season pregnant with hope captures the human imagination and lays before our very eyes the possibility of a more hopeful future. Hope offers each of us something to look forward to, and it also helps us to see our way through chaos and complexity - especially in our own lives, and in our world. Hope, then, is more than the assurance that things can and will be better in the future. This particular hope which the birth of the Messiah offers is an affirmation of a world which longs for the proud to be brought down from their seat and the lowly lifted, as Mary said in the Magnificat. It is a world where the old order opens itself to embrace a new order, which invites us beyond ourselves and compels us to look for, and to do, something different, something fulfilling.
Each pregnancy invites an eager anticipation. The Royal Family, and indeed the world, is waiting with bated breath for the birth of the first child of Harry and Meghan. There’s also a family who are not royals but do share that same sense of anticipation. I remember when my wife was pregnant with each of our four children. With each pregnancy, we had to prepare for the baby. And so we did. I am sure you also prepared for the birth of your child, just as much as your parents prepared for your birth. Each preparation isn’t the same but each one helps us to assure ourselves and even the unborn child that we await, we keep watch for his or her arrival.
And so we begin the season which is pregnant with hope - the hope of life renewed, the hope of a world made new. Part of our preparation and anticipation will be captured by the lighting of the Advent Candle each Sunday morning, the hosting of the annual Advent Quiet Day at Old Brick which will be led by the Director of Music, and a new offering of Advent Compline - a short evening prayer and meditation on each Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. in Old Brick. These, and many more, will in no doubt prepare us as we await the birth of Jesus.
Advent invites us to recommit ourselves to a more purposeful and hopeful future, one that is made possible by the Messiah who comes to us in the same way we all came into the world - as babies.
Let’s wait, then. Let’s stay awake and keep watch for the birthing of this wonderful story.