Rev. Andrew Cruz Lillegard is an associate priest at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Sheridan.
Advent is a special season of the church’s liturgical year. A season of preparation and anticipation of things to come, tempered by the glorious reality of what has already come to pass. Advent is the season which most succinctly reminds Christians that we are living in that time between our Lord’s first and second coming.
A time of preparation for his second coming, based on what He instructed us to do when He first took our human flesh as his own. As such, Advent is something that should not be rushed — it isn’t a sprint from Thanksgiving to Christmas, in which our priority often becomes making our lists and checking them twice. Nor is it a spiritual triathlon to be endured, where our calendars become a jumbled mix of family, secular and religious “to-dos.”
Advent is intended to be a time to remember the great gift of the Incarnation — the gifting of God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, to humanity, for the purpose of our salvation.
And through that remembrance, we are granted an opportunity to approach these lives of ours – lives that have been redeemed by the Incarnation — with a new zeal for the work of Christ’s Gospel.
The first Sunday of Advent marks the new liturgical year for the church which Jesus Christ established. Within the first few centuries of the establishment of that church, the period leading up to Christmas was being set aside by the faithful, as a penitential season — a season of preparation, like Lent, which included fasting, abstinence, and additional religious practices.
What that means for us, today, is that the period of time between the Sunday nearest Nov. 30 (St. Andrew’s Day) and Christmas Day is 20-plus days of Christian New Year’s Eves. Nearly a month-long opportunity to assess what has passed, while keeping an eye on what lies before us.
A chance to be rid of those spiritual habits which have been plaguing us all year long, and instead resolve to live lives which find their centers in God alone. A chance to allow our redeemer to reinvent us in his image and likeness. An opportunity to be made new, again.
So, what possible reason would we have to rush this season of Advent? And what could possibly possess us to fill this time with one more shopping trip, or another “holiday” party?
This Advent we have been gifted the opportunity to reinvent how we approach Christmas, by doing nothing more than letting Advent be what it was intended to be.
What’s more, we have been given yet another chance to prepare a place in our hearts and lives for the coming of our Lord.
How will we spend this time? Wrapping one more gift for that certain someone who already has everything they want? Or unwrapping this gift of Advent, which has been painstakingly crafted for us, by the one who knows our every need?
“For the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Matt 24:44).