Advent starts a new church year. There may be four Sundays in Advent, but our Sunday lectionary readings point us to three primary stories for the season: the end of time (1 Advent), John the Baptist (2 & 3 Advent), and Mary (4 Advent). These stories help us prepare for Christ’s coming, Christ’s advent, into the world. Advent is a wonderful time for introspective reflection and these stories of Advent give us a wonderful launching pad for this task.
1 Advent: I am always struck by the way that the church year starts with apocalyptic readings about the end. I find it a powerful reminder that the difference between an ending and a beginning is often little more than a matter of perspective. Or, at least, endings always contain beginnings, and beginnings always contain endings.
As you reflect on the end of time at the beginning of the church year, you might ask yourself: What endings are happening or need to happen in my life so something new can blossom? What endings do I need to grieve as I start something new?
2 & 3 Advent: John the Baptist is the focus on these two Sundays. John is the one who declares, quoting Isaiah, that he is preparing the way of the Lord, the perfect message for us as we prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus. The difference between the two Sundays is the author of the story. On 2 Advent, we hear Mark’s version. On 3 Advent, John the Evangelist’s.
A bit after our reading from John’s Gospel, John the Baptist says that he must decrease and Christ must increase. As you ponder John the Baptist these two weeks of Advent, you might ask yourself: what needs to decrease in me so that I can make room for Christ to increase in my life?
4 Advent: We are so close to Christmas that we are tempted to think that we are there, but we still have one more Sunday in Advent and this Sunday belongs to Mary. Not Mary giving birth to Jesus in Bethlehem, but Mary still up in Nazareth receiving with trepidation the news that she has been called by God to bear God’s son into the world. And we hear of her courage to say yes to this call.
In what ways is God calling you? How is God inviting you to bear Christ in this world? Do you have the courage to say “yes” with Mary?
I hope that this Advent is a time for you to inwardly reflect on Christ’s coming and prepare your heart, mind, and soul to welcome his birth at Christmas.