This Weekend we begin the holy season of ADVENT, which is the beginning of a new liturgical year. So “Happy New Year!” How are we to approach the season of Advent? Some writers will tell you that Advent is about “waiting,” both waiting for the Lord to come again in His triumphal Second Coming (especially in the readings at the beginning of Advent) and also waiting for celebrating His coming in the flesh at Christmas.
Some time ago I lived in Manhattan in New York City. I was pastor of the Paulist Mother Church, St. Paul the Apostle, for eight and a half years. While I was there a frequent commercial on the TV had the line, “In New York, ‘WAIT’ is a four letter word,” and that is very true. New York is a place of hustle and bustle. Manhattan moves and moves quickly. If the light turns green and you do not immediately move your car then the drivers behind you will be honking their horns and cursing you in languages you did not even know existed. People walk quickly, always moving. Standing still seems unnatural to true denizen of Manhattan. They have places to go, things to do, people to see and they are on a tight schedule. If you should be so foolish as to try to shuffle along on the sidewalk you would be risking getting run over or pushed to the side. The last thing New Yorkers want to do is wait. Truly, in New York, WAIT is a four letter word.
Now I felt right at home in that situation. The best part of living in Manhattan for me was the forthright and assertive (some would say aggressive) style of driving that I enjoy. I am always trying to get a lot done and forever running short on time. I always felt (and still feel!) that I have important matters to attend to and things that needed to get done, and I did not want to waste time waiting. To this day, as Sr. Sharon can testify, I drive assertively because I am in a hurry and don’t want to waste time. In short, I hate to wait.
Yet I like Advent because I don’t see Advent as being about waiting in the sense of a waste of time, of standing around twiddling your thumbs hoping something will happen; rather I see Advent in terms of expectancy and expectation. I think the best image of Advent is the pregnant Mary, waiting for the coming of the Christ Child, but also experiencing the thrill of pregnancy, the expectation of what this special child would be, the yearning of all the Prophets, the signs of growing fulfillment towards the birth of this child. Mary was not just waiting. She was expecting, both as an expectant mother, and as a person of faith in the God of Israel.
So I hope that for you Advent will not be about waiting. We wait for the celebration of Christmas, but we expect the coming of Christ in our hearts at Christmas, and the coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead at the end of time. Happy Advent!