Why Are We Waiting? Advent 2013

Today is the first Sunday of Advent in the year of Our Lord 2013, and we are still waiting. What are we waiting for, and why? The Lord has come; the Lord has redeemed us on the Cross; so why do we begin again this annual cycle of reading the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Messiah? Are we play-acting, pretending to wait for that which is already here? Of course not. We are doing two important things. First, we are entering into liturgical anamnesis — a remembrance which is more than a mere recalling of events. It would be more accurate to call it a participation in those events despite the distances of time and place that separate us from them. We are indeed awaiting our Saviour, and each of us knows that there are whole areas of our lives that need his redeeming touch. Second, we are telling the story of how we came to be, and story-telling, the narrative of our past, is an important part of our identity as Christians. It is how we make sense of the world and our part in it.

As we shall see, Advent divides into two unequal parts, each of them beautifully expressed by the two Prefaces of the Mass. The first Preface of Advent, used from today until 16 December, concentrates on Christ’s coming again in glory at the end of time, and the hope his promise brings:

‘ . . . he assumed at his first coming the lowliness of human flesh,
and so fulfilled the design you formed long ago,
and opened for us the way to eternal salvation,
that, when he comes again in glory and majesty
and all is at last made manifest,
we who watch for that day may inherit the great promise
in which now we dare to hope.’

That is how we begin Advent: with hope, watching and waiting for the day that will bring the realisation of all our hopes, and not ours only, but those of all the world.

May you have a blessed Advent.

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8 thoughts on “Why Are We Waiting? Advent 2013”

  1. Thank you for this beautiful explanation of Advent 🙂
    For me, Advent is also waiting with Mary and preparing my own heart both to receive Jesus (the stable?) and to give birth to Jesus in my own life. Theologically, it may not make sense at all 🙂

    • Claire, this makes perfect sense to me. This year I’m aware that even in the garden the tasks to hand mirror the work we must do to prepare our hearts. It’s time to clear space, remove all that is redundant, strengthen boundaries in both. May your Advent be blessed.

    • As I read the end of this reflection, I saw Advent as preparation for when Jesus will come and take me home. This wasn’t a gloomy thought. It was a very happy one. I may have another ten years. I may have less or more. Whatever happens, I feel I have now entered into a time of looking forward to, waiting for that time.

  2. The Anglican Collect for today echoes the preface:

    Almighty God,
    give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
    and to put on the armour of light,
    now in the time of this mortal life,
    in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
    that on the last day,
    when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
    to judge the living and the dead,
    we may rise to the life immortal;
    through him who is alive and reigns with you,
    in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
    one God, now and for ever.
    Amen

    • And the Roman Catholic Collect for today:

      “Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming, so that gathered at his right hand, they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

      Our Second Reading, Romans 13:11-14 appears to be the basis for the Anglican collect. As Roman Catholics and former Anglicans we are pleased that many of the parishes in our Diocese are offering carol services combined with scripture readings in addition to scheduled Masses, as we always enjoyed the Service of Carols and Nine Lessons. Wishing all the keeping of a good Advent.

  3. Marie. Your comment was far from gloomy, and the time scale you describe sounds very similar to my own taking into account the number of years my mother lived. For me it’s comforting to know there is a future beyond the beyond and although I can’t say I’m rushing towards it I’m highly cognisant it is moving towards me at an unknown rate of knots!

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