The season of Advent sits in a quite peculiar place in the traditional Church calendar, at the very end. While it falls neatly around the end of our secular calendars this is mostly a coincidence. Advent was set to occur during the darkest days of the year. These are the days when the sun is setting earlier and earlier, and we are overtaken by darkness before we are prepared to finish our daily tasks. Furthermore, when we wake in the morning, the sun is nowhere to be found. Instead, darkness greets us, and we are left to fumble in the darkness to prepare for an ever-shortening day. If one was not aware of the seasons, one could perhaps fear that the darkness would surely swallow the world whole.
This is the message of Advent. The days are growing shorter. Darkness and the forces that dwell in darkness are ostensibly gaining ground. If one was
not aware of the victory of Jesus Christ and his imminent return, one could
perhaps fear that the darkness would surely swallow the world whole.
Yet we do know of Christ, the Light of the world! And so we call the world
living in darkness to see the great Light and turn to Jesus while there is still
time. We Christians indeed speak of an end during Advent, but the end we
speak of is the end of sin, the end of death’s reign, and the end of this age as
Christ returns to usher in a new age that will never end.
This new age is why Advent also serves as the beginning of the Church calendar! It escorts us into Christmas and the subsequent Christmas season.
It introduces us to the newborn Christ and then leads us to a manger that
confounds our expectations of how salvation is accomplished in the world.
The Salvation of God comes with meekness, love, and sacrifice. And as we meet the Christ child for the first time all over again, it compels us to make resolutions to live differently in the world. What resolutions will you make
for the coming year?
The message of Advent perhaps can be distilled down to the message of
John the Baptist. From his call to repent lest one falls into God’s coming judgment, to persuading the crowds to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. In Luke’s account, he helps the people make resolutions to be generous and just with one’s neighbors. As we walk through Advent into
Christmas, we will have many opportunities to practice generosity and justice with those we meet. As you do, carry the Gospel of welcomed ends and new beginnings, for, in these dark days, Christ is the one who brings hope for all.