On December 2, the Christian people begin their Advent journey—four weeks of preparation for the celebration of Christmas. The Church has a great sense of DRAMA. From time immemorial, it has clothed its ways of remembering what God has done for us in colorful vestments, lit candles, fragrant incense, music, art, processions, re-presentation, and fasting and feasting. The Church recognizes that human beings are not just disembodied spirits. Rather, the whole human person, body and spirit, must be engaged in the worship of God.
The Church’s liturgical year begins this Sunday. It provides for us a “story-line” that we can enter into as participants. The stories are about the past—they help us remember all the great things God has done for the human community. But, when we retell the great stories of our tradition, we are actually telling our own stories as well. What we remember and what we choose to tell and retell says a lot about who we are and what we desire. Thus, these stories are also about the present. What is more, they point us toward the future. They give us the hope we need to carry on in our own time and place. They are expressions of what we want to become.
We tell stories, then, because we are immersed in TIME—past, present, and future. Hardly a day goes by that we do not look to the past for guidance, inspiration, comfort, and incentive (“When I was your age….” “Do you remember when…?”). And every day, of course, we invest ourselves in present thought, word, and deed in order to give expression to the life that is ours NOW. Furthermore, hardly a day goes by that we do not express our desire for something that is NOT-YET (“I hope we do not go to war!” “I wish scientists would discover a cure for cancer.”)
The Christian Church sees the importance of time-related stories. The liturgical seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and Ordinary Time) constitute a year-long drama that invites us to immerse ourselves in the mystery of God at work in the world today.
Now we begin the new Church year with Advent—four weeks set apart to remember the long ages before Christ’s coming and to recognize the profound yearnings of human beings for something MORE—some greater freedom, some greater light, some greater goodness. During Advent, we reflect on and re-present the desires of our own hearts—those aspects of ourselves that are not “finished” yet; those places within us where we feel unsatisfied, unwanted, uncertain, afraid; those places where we have not yet recognized God present and at work. Each of us knows there is always something MORE. No matter how much we HAVE, no matter how old or experienced we are, there is always more we can BE! Advent celebrates this human reality and lifts it up to God in hope and confident expectation.