Nashville has finally seen the return of autumn and Advent has come following closely. Advent is a strange liturgical time in that the church year is beginning with a doubled sense of anticipation. The cooling days with falling leaves are spent waiting, waiting, waiting. Everyone is longing for the day to come when we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the awaited return of the jolly fat elf in the red suit. Society at large is waiting for the return of Santa. I’m sure you were reminded in this past Sunday’s sermon about the dual nature of Advent. It’s not just a time for stockings and presents. It’s a time to prepare ourselves for that next Advent. The final coming of Our Lord and the fulfillment of His kingdom.
Reading the Gospels I was always struck by how Jesus spoke of the kingdom as being “at hand” (Mt 4:17) or even “…there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” (Mk 9:1). This makes it seem that the kingdom was near and that it certainly should be here now. This world can hardly be mistaken for the world of that kingdom as described by the Scriptures. The lions and lambs are not making nice and swords and spears are still being used in the time honored method. There are moments when there are flashes of the kingdom to come or maybe echoes of long lost Eden. Flashes though are not reality. Remember that God does seem to be like a poet. Repeating themes in stanza after stanza in the poem of Creation. Is there something in the past that is the same sort of theme of being and yet not being fully manifested? I was looking for a type. A prefiguring that would shed light on this problem.
Advent offered that type, that image. Nativity of Jesus and His return. Naturally the image of the kingdom having been conceived and now gestating waiting for it’s birth. It seems fitting to me that we can think of Jesus growing and developing as a man in Mary and now we Christians grow and develop also in Mary waiting for that next nativity. When the Mass was revised there was a part of the Creed that was updated. The phrase “…by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary…” was changed to “…and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary…” See the distinction? Jesus was already here with us as a man at the Incarnation. His brith at Christmas was the fulfillment of his becoming flesh and dwelling with us. The Kingdom and the Incarnation are a double Advent and a double Nativity. Now and not yet.