Tomorrow is the first day of December. Where does the time go? Almost the end of another year…
Well, in some ways it is – and in some ways it isn’t. Because the Church year runs on a different timetable to the calendar year. The Church year starts – not a week after Christmas, but four weeks before it; not with a party, but with a promise. It starts today, on the first Sunday of Advent.
‘Advent’ means: ‘coming’. Christ comes to the world. In one sense, of course, it’s past history, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. But it’s also a future promise: Christ’s coming again, to establish the reign of God’s shalom throughout the earth.
We only have to look at the state of our world – conflict and war, distress and disease – to know, like many a parent on a long car journey, that we’re not there yet… Indeed, we may be tempted to ask, with the Psalmist, ‘How long, O Lord?’ – or to cry, with the prophet Isaiah, ‘Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down!’
Our culture has made a virtue of impatience. Most weeks on the News, there seem to be people with placards, chanting: ‘What do we want? (Whatever we want.) When do we want it? (NOW!)’ It’s no longer just children who demand to have their needs met and their problems fixed without delay. Instant noodles. Instant loans. Express checkout. What do we want? Whatever we want. When do we want it? Now!
In such a world, the celebration of Advent is a radically counter-cultural act: the act of waiting. Waiting on God; waiting in trust for God to fulfill God’s promises; waiting to see what we hope for (Romans 8:25).
This week, we have a special opportunity to clear our hearts for Advent: to ‘detox’ from our addiction to impatience – and spirit-sapping busy-ness – as we prepare for Christmas. This Wednesday’s ‘Waiting on God Together’ evening will help us to wait; to still the clamour; to listen to the voice of the Spirit and our own hopes and longings. Please join us, as we make space in our hearts, again, for trust and hope to take root – and for the Christ to be born.