Every Advent is the beginning of a new year (the church’s liturgical year begins on the first Sunday of Advent), so each Advent brings with it the offer of new beginnings. Every Advent has the same theme: anticipation of and creating room for God’s gift of love in our lives. One might think these similarities from one year to the next could make Advent into a mundane season. Yet I have found that every Advent is special.
This year’s Advent seems especially special to me. In addition to the typical themes (that I need to be reminded of year after year), this Advent will have a flavor of poignancy for me. My worshiping community will gather each week, as it has for the past nine Advents, to offer prayers, to open our hearts, to take hold of a hope that passes understanding. It will do this gathering in a sanctuary at 255 H Street, as it has for the past nine years I have been worshiping here, and for decades before that. And this will also be the final Advent where we will gather at this particular location. Part of my Advent anticipation is connected to this realization. I anticipate a mix of emotions in me. I anticipate a mix of emotions for many of you, too.
Advent is a liminal time, a time of transition, a time that stands on both sides of a boundary. It is like a time of gestation. Mary, one of the central figures at this time of year, is preparing a meal or doing the laundry or hauling water from the well (or, in medieval art, reading a book), when an angel interrupts her ordinary life and everything starts to change. Something new is being prepared.
Because of the changes we are about to experience, I am entering this season of Advent (which may have already begun when you read this) with a sense of anticipation. But that’s appropriate. This is a season of longing, deep change, and shadowy anticipation. It is a season when we remember that God is One who interrupts ordinary lives and in doing so changes the world. My task, perhaps our task, this Advent is to find meaning, comfort, and direction in Advent’s weekly themes: hope, peace, joy, and love. My/our task is to keep my eyes open for a gentle star rising upon the horizon.