Today begins the season of Advent, the beginning of a new ecclesial year. Following the broad stretches of time that are called “common” or “ordinary,” the waning days of the liturgical year culminate with Christ the King Sunday, an eschatological day that proclaims the rule of Jesus in the world. The next Sunday, First Sunday of Advent, inaugurates the hopeful, fasting, preparatory season set aside not only to prepare human hearts for the arrival of the Christ child at Christmas, but also to ready and order lives for the arrival of Christ the King at his second coming.
The new year begins with longing, waiting, and watchfulness. We recognize this pattern; it is simply the human condition. These are the states we all know well. We long; we wait; and we may, at times, watch. Far more often, we want the longing to stop, the waiting to end, and for distractions to keep us entertained rather than continue to keep at the hard work of watchfulness. The Advent season is known for its capacity to deepen, hone, and illumine our true desires and our needy human nature. We need this season; we need this Savior. But we need to know this about ourselves again.
The cast of real life characters who live out the biblical narrative of the first advent are the ordinary folks who, by virtue of their fiats to God, participated in his most extraordinary work among us. Some were joyfully receptive; others stuttering and haltering. They are very much like us, and at the same time, not at all like us. Very few of us are visited by angels, yet we find great comfort in hearing these otherworldly messengers say to them, “Do not be afraid.” The announcement that the baby growing within Mary will bear the name “God with us” answers the longing of every human heart. Like the shepherds on the hilltop in Bethlehem, we discover that we long to drop everything to find this king. We long to worship, and we long to worship him.
The biblical account is fairly studded with all kinds of markings of time: prophetic, genealogical, political and historical, obstetrical, and religious. The incarnation of God in Jesus Christ is fully immersed in the kinds of time we are all familiar with and live our lives within. And yet, day by day, month by month, year by year, the extraordinary takes place in the most ordinary places and in the least sentimental ways. This is how we live, how God made us to live, and how he works among us.
This Advent, we will offer accounts of people who are leaning more deeply into the longing and waiting. We want to hear from those who may help us keep our slowly drooping eyelids lifted in alert watchfulness. Many of our readers are already familiar with the liturgical year, but perhaps this Advent is the time to explore it with fresh eyes. The liturgical year is a way to enter more watchfully into time, to baptize our cramped and confined notions of time with the true and expansive stories of God’s time, through the lives of his people.
In this new ecclesial year, TWI’s Missio will give more disciplined attention to the year itself, and we hope you will join us. We welcome stories and reflections from others throughout the year that help us all, authors and readers, mark our time truthfully and live it faithfully.