This week brings the second Sunday of Advent, and with it way more things to say than I have time (or you patience) for. I’ll strive to be brief.
In Advent we get a glimpse of the different way time works in the Kingdom of God. For all of us, time is linear: it starts in the past, moves through the present, and heads into the future. But in Scripture, time is fluid; it moves in several directions at once, with the same event happening now, back then, and yet to come. Three of this week’s readings from the lectionary involve this idea of “biblical time.” The prophet Malachi looks forward to the coming “day of the Lord,” and the messenger who would announce it. (Malachi 3:1-4) Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, rejoices in the arrival of this day in the person of the (yet-to-be born) infant Jesus. (Luke 1:68-79) Paul prays that God would maintain the Philippians in their faith until the coming “day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:3-11) All three talk about a day when God’s reign over human hearts arrives in its fullness. For one, that day is coming; for another, it is here; for the third, it has begun, and will soon achieve its completion. So which is it?
You guessed it; all three. God’s decisive, overpowering arrival in the midst of human affairs took place in the the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. God’s consummation of human history, when God wipes all tears from our eyes, awaits the coming of Christ in final judgment. And here, now, this very instant, our hearts are becoming the manger in which the Christ child is laid. We await, and celebrate, and remember his coming among us, all at the same time. We have a word for this time, pregnant with both anticipation and memory: Advent.