Today high winds have swept the earth clean, and winter’s luminous light glances off leaves of burnished red and glistening gold.
Another year has passed, I thought, as I gazed at the purple hangings on the altar at St. Peter’s Anglican Church. We are in Advent, and today is the New Year’s Day of the Church. The year is swept clean like the earth, and we consider what we have done with the time given to us. Have we been good stewards? How can we be better caretakers of the days and hours God has granted us?
Advent is a penitential season, a time to consider these things – death, judgment, Heaven, Hell. We look into our hearts and sweep them clean too, as best we can. We take an accounting.
For Advent is a time of preparation, a time of getting ready for His coming, the advent of His birth, the fantastic and nearly unbelievable intersection of the immortal and the mortal, the infinite and the finite, when God became man, became incarnate, in the flesh, one of us in our world of matter. Emmanuel, God with us. Christmas.
We wait upon the Lord. An impatient people, greedy, seeking to devour our gift of time, we find it hard to wait upon the Lord, indeed, to wait for anything. Technology speeds our days and our vision, multiplying the choices, so that surely we shall go mad with such an array of possibility, a panoply of things we cannot possibly have or do, or consume. Frenzy.
We stand back and pause for a moment, breathe in, and slow down.
We go to church. We focus.
We look to Bethlehem, to the simple manger. To Mary who said yes to God. To Joseph who patiently cared, waiting. To the shepherds who obeyed the call of the angels in the dead of night. To the Wise Men, those travelers who followed, wondering, waiting.
And as we wait for His coming, we know we wait with the Church throughout time – time past, present, to come. We wait with the Communion of Saints, all those who have waited and watched, and those who will wait and watch tomorrow. We wait now through December for the great festival of Christmas. As we clean out our hearts, we prepare too for the Second Coming when Christ will return in glory to judge the living and the dead. In Advent we recall we must wait and watch for that Coming as well.
This morning I looked up the red-carpeted aisle to the violet tented tabernacle. I knew that soon I would partake of Christ’s coming today, His coming to me, as I received His body and blood, as His Real Presence became part of me. There was no frenzy here in this sanctuary, only sanity, only truth, only love. My heart and mind would be healed of the world’s craziness for another week.
I will make my Advent wreath this afternoon, arrange the greens in a circle, light my first purple candle, say my prayers. I will move into the season slowly, focusing on Bethlehem, and looking forward to the next Mass, the next Advent of Our Lord right here in Oakland. I will prepare for Christmas.
St. Peter’s Church, 6113 Lawton, Oakland, CA; Sunday Mass and Church School, 10 a.m.; http://www.saintpetersoakland.com/