With respect to Advent Scripture referencing the Second Coming of Christ, William Barclay says Advent is a space to never become so immersed in time that we forget eternity. It seems impossible to even picture a world without time. I describe myself as someone with the problem of being habitually early to everything. Other people have the opposite tendency, I know. Our culture is so timely that Advent can seem almost impossible to enter.
How can we wait for something (and actually someone) that has no timetable, no ETA, no reserved spot in the calendar? And ironically, that’s how we try to handle this “time” of Advent. We give it four weeks, a season. We put it on the calendar when that seems to be the opposite of what it is about.
Yet, Christ calls out, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).
It’s because we humans are trapped in time, morality, beginnings and endings, and we can’t fathom something that goes on forever. And so, we don’t know how to wait indefinitely. So, we put waiting on the calendar. We’ll do it for four weeks and then we need a break. Because life goes on, time progresses and we often even forget what we are waiting for.
I am an expert on waiting when there is a date on the calendar. I have the self-control necessary to wait until my birthday to open gifts I get in the mail. No matter how excited I am about what is inside those packages, I can wait. But, I honestly don’t know if I would be such an expert if my birthday was not on the calendar. What would happen if it didn’t come year after year and those packages piled up? And would I still be excited or would I forget what I was even waiting for in the first place and find myself distracted by other gifts in between?
How do we engage the “not yet” piece of Christianity, of Christ, in a world of “already”?
I went running yesterday at dusk and it turned dark about halfway through — dark and windy, leaves swirled around me. With lights on in houses, I could feel myself picking up the pace. There was more urgency in my steps once darkness came — but it was also peaceful. Everyone seemed to be inside and I was on the outside looking in, experiencing another space in the same time. I felt like I should get home and out of the dark, but I also felt like I could run in the swirling leaves and cool breeze forever.
Advent is a time to be filled with hope, but we can only truly be filled with hope when we realize who and what our hope is in: in Christ and in Christ coming again and the conflation between this world and the next.
May you revel in the mystery of Christ always — always wondering, waiting and watching for who and what is to come. May you be inside and outside, patient and urgent, and never so immersed in time that you forget eternity.
May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may be filled with hope (Romans 15:13).
JULIE RAFFETY serves as the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Franklin, New Jersey. Julie is a violinist, aspiring writer, snowboarder, runner, identical twin and crazy about popcorn.