Michael McNichols, director of Fuller California Coast, looks at the significance of the Advent season--and its timing--even though we "already know how things will play out."
Advent is typically characterized as the season of anticipation. In our gospel narratives we join with the ancient witnesses and share their hope that this child born among us is truly the long-awaited Messiah of God. Of course, we know ahead of time how the story goes, so our sense of anticipation is fulfilled rather quickly. It’s a bit like reading the beginning of a novel after you’ve cheated and read the last chapter ahead of time. You already know how things will play out.
There is still an element of anticipation in this season that is important to us. Knowing that Jesus is truly the One who is the Word made flesh, the Word that has come to dwell among us, we look ahead to another season of life that might be different than what has come before. Sure, we consider how we might do things in a new way, set new goals, get rid of some bad habits, and generally orient our lives in more successful directions. But for us who follow Jesus, anticipation is grounded in what he will do in and through us if we are open to the journey that comes with his presence.
I like it that the calendar of the church kicks off ahead of the conventional calendar that divides our lives into 12 fairly predictable months. There is something significant in orienting our lives around the life of Jesus before the demands of Janus (the Roman god whose name gives us the month of January) take hold of our lives. Janus will surely have his way as we join the rest of the world in another race through the year, but Jesus precedes the rush and invites you and me into a shared life that not only rehearses and remembers the story of the ages, but to one that also anticipates the living reality of Jesus’ ongoing ministry in the world
In this Advent season, may the presence of Jesus, who brings us God’s grace and truth, precede all that will come afterward and bless us with the anticipation that he will, indeed, bring new things to us as we follow him.