But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.(Mark 13:32)
There are lots of reasons why I am excited about the Advent Chapel but, when it comes right down to it, perhaps the biggest reason is simply that I love Advent – the anticipation, the promise, the desire, the mystery. I love the way it simultaneously points backwards to the incarnation of God in Jesus and forwards to the fulfilment of God’s promises. I love the way it reminds us that God is with us in our waiting. I love the way it calls us to be with God in our striving for justice and peace. I love the way you can’t quite pin it – or God – down.
Time is slippery. We pretend it’s not. We pretend that an hour is an hour and that this December always comes after this November and before this January. It’s easy to pretend time is stable, predictable, steady – because it mostly behaves that way. But it doesn’t always. And it never does around God. God, unlike us, is bigger than time.
The church year is an attempt to give expression to this slipperiness, this relative smallness, of time, to crack open our insistence that time behave itself, keeping the past, past and the future, future. Leaving the present alone to simply be now. And Advent is the season when those cracks gape widest – if we let it do its work.
Advent, of course, turns our hearts and minds to Christmas in preparation for the arrival of God-with-us, the baby Jesus. And so it should. That is the moment when it all started – Jesus came, launching us into a new world of love and mercy and God’s gracious rule.
Advent reaches back into that moment and makes it present to us now. Christ has come.
But Advent does more. The Spirit demands more. Christ is not finished with us. Ten minutes of the evening news makes that clear. So Advent looks past Christmas to see Christ’s coming again, looking for the final fulfilment of the promises of peace and justice made through the prophets, calling us to anticipation and preparation not simply for a remembering of that blessed Christmas past but for a more perfect Christmas that is yet to be. Christ will come again and God’s reign will be made complete.
But Advent does still more. Advent doesn’t just leave that perfect Christmas in the future. It reaches forward into that moment and makes it present to us now, piling past, present, and future upon us.
So I invite you to resist the urge to count down the days. Instead, carve out a space to wait on the Spirit of Advent, and experience, in some small way, time in God instead of God in time.