Our liturgical year will begin anew on December 2, the first Sunday of Advent. With the change of year we will experience lots of changes in our worship. Our Scripture readings for the Eucharist will follow Year C and for those who follow the daily lectionary for Morning and Evening Prayer, we will be in Year 1 (Charts for both sets of readings are at the back of our Book of Common Prayer.) The readings and our hymnody will reflect our custom of anticipating Christ’s return to us at the end of time. The term “advent” means “coming”, which we tend to assume means the coming of Christmas. But the intent of Advent is to awaken our desire for the Risen One to come again, to bring everlasting justice and peace.
Of course, as we center ourselves on our desire for a parousia (the Greek word for the second coming of Christ) we cannot escape the momentum of the days preceding Christmas. We overlap our need for all things to be made well with our anticipation of the birth of Christ. Again, as we get closer to Christmas Day, our readings and hymns will reflect the stories of our ancestors’ cries for a Prince of Peace to come and rule over them with justice and equity; a time when the Lord God “will swallow up death forever and will wipe away the tears from all faces.” (Isa 25: 8a)
Each Advent we acknowledge our shaky understanding of time and eternity. We echo the cries of the ancients while we yearn for an end to humanity’s sufferings. Mary sings out, in words reminiscent of Hannah’s Song in the first book of Samuel: “God has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.” (Luke 1:51-52) All of Mary’s praise for God’s miraculous mercy foreshadows our desires for Christ to come again.
“O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” (9th century)