Advent is a time of  deep mystery,  of  plaintive prayer: “Come, Emmanuel”, prayer that is both plea and confident hope. “Come Lord, come  into our dark and seemingly ever darkening world.” As we draw near to Christmas we are aware that “beneath the angel strain has rolled two thousand years of wrong.” “Come,” we cry. The world needs healing. We need salvation. We yearn for  hope.

Advent expresses our  hope through ancient words of promise in Scripture and Liturgy: “Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O  Israel.”  Advent’s mystery holds together yearning, fulfilment, promise and hope.

The early Christian  writers  and preachers spoke of  the three Advents, three “comings”  of Christ: Christ has come wrapped in swaddling clothes; Christ will come at the end point of all time clothed in glory and in the mid-point, our present, Christ comes secretly to each one of us.

Christ comes daily in word and sacrament, in the prayer and fellowship of the Church. Christ, existing before all things, comes into our “now” and holds us in his eternal future. In Christ all time is held in the creative love of God. This is what gives us hope. If we listen to the doom-mongers we must live in despair: the world will either be blown up or fry as nuclear warfare or global warming brings the whole so-called “accident” of creation to a sad end – so “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die”.

Advent refutes such cynical gloom. On Christmas day we rejoice to hear St. John’s Gospel proclaim: “In the beginning was the Word. All things were made through him and without him nothing was made that is made.” The Advent Gospel proclaims that creation is of God through the Word so there is hope, purpose, an end point. The Advent Gospel proclaims that each of us are created by God, held in being by God,  valued by God and will in the end time be brought into God’s eternal and greater existence. The best is yet to be.

Our imaginations cannot picture God’s end point: Christ shows us the end : healing, truth, justice, community, peace, love, forgiveness. Christ speaks of the End as of a welcoming inn, with food, drink, and friendship at the  end of a long journey:  “in my Fathers’ house are many mansions”.

An Ever Circling Year
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