At the beginning of each Advent, our family decorates for Christmas. We put up our Christmas tree and put out our wreath. We hang our garlands and we string up our stockings. We light candles in our windows and we place our Advent calendar in a prominent place. Everything is ready for Christmas except for our Nativity scene. Of course, our stable is out and the shepherds are there. The sheep mill around in the hay and the donkey lies down for a well-deserved rest. Mary and Joseph look into the manger, but they are waiting. The manger is empty and will be until Christmas morning when their baby is nestled snugly into the hay. So during Advent they wait – wait to meet their baby, wait for their Messiah, wait for the fulfillment of all their hopes and dreams.
I have always loved this special time of anxious anticipation. As I wait for Christmas, I never have any doubt that Christmas morning will come, so the delay is sweet, beautiful. It is the same with our wait for Christ’s return. We wait expectantly for the glory and the joy that will be and we know that time will come. For now, though, we wait in the in-between. We are certain of our future, but also faced with the knowledge that mixed into the wonderful creation around us is pain, death and loss. God’s kingdom has been initiated but not yet fully realized.
I was always grateful that I was born on the first day of Advent. It seemed to draw me deeper into the wonder and anticipation of the season. This year, though, I think that God intends for more than just my birth to be linked with Advent. Instead, He plans for my very identity to be tied up in the eager waiting of Advent. Waiting to meet my baby, waiting for my Messiah, waiting for the fulfillment of all my hopes and dreams. So, this Advent, I wait with St. Mary and St. Joseph. Believing that Christ has come. Believing that Christ has risen. Believing that Christ will come again.
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18