Thursday, November 27, 2008

Advent as a Metaphor for Everyday Life

[Following is the article I wrote for the December issue of the parish newsletter.]

As I contemplate the beginning of the Advent season, I am reminded that this season has one meaning in two forms. The one meaning is the anticipation of the coming of Christ. As we look at the gospel lessons for the season, we see that the coming of Christ is manifested in two forms, or more accurately, in two timeframes – one in the past and one in the future. Most commonly, we think of Advent as the time in which we anticipate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. In this sense, while we look forward to the birth of our Savior, we are looking backward in time to an historic event that happened about 2,000 years ago. But during this season, we also look forward in time, to the Second Coming of Christ, to an unknown time in the future when Christ will usher in the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. If you think about it too much, it can become a mind-bender worthy of a science fiction adventure. But it’s not. For us Christians, it’s our reality.

During this season, how do we reconcile the fact that our attention is pulled simultaneously backward in time to the manger and forward in time to the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, where or how do we find equilibrium? Where or how do we find a point of balance that allows us to embrace both the comfort of the past and the unknown of the future? We do that by living in the in-between, in the here and now – that point in time between Christ’s first coming, his birth, and his Second Coming. We do that by being the Body of Christ – by being the body of the one whose birth we anticipate and who will ultimately bring about the fulfillment of God’s kingdom.

Advent calls us to live in the tension between that which has been, indeed, that which is, and that which is yet to be. In this respect, Advent is a metaphor for the church – that place that proclaims what has been accomplished through the birth of Jesus, and that proclaims and holds onto the hope of that which is yet to be accomplished – namely, the coming of God’s kingdom. And Advent is a metaphor for our own lives, as we struggle, on a daily basis, to live out that which the church proclaims and represents. From this perspective, all our life is an Advent-time, spent living in the joy of Jesus’ birth, spent living the gospel that Jesus proclaimed during his life among us, and spent anticipating the ultimate fulfillment of the Gospel in his coming again.

Here’s wishing you and your loved ones not only a blessed Advent season, but also a blessed on-going Advent life.

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