Yesterday marked the beginning of a new church year. Advent, the season is named. Advent means “coming,” and points toward the Second Coming of our Lord Christ. Ironically, in the northern hemisphere, the season begins as death moves over the land. Leaves fall from the trees; the winds blow; the temperature drops. Animals retreat into warrens, burrows and dens to sleep for the winter. Crops are harvested and stored for future use. The land is barren, desolate. Nothing grows. Yet in this physical space and time, we are called to remembrance. The season begins with a warning from our Lord to watch, wait and pray. The times will be desperate, there will be trials and tribulations. Wars and rumors of wars. These are but the beginning of the signs of the end, culminating in that great and terrible day of the Lord.
Immediately following this warning, we are met with the last prophet of the Old Covenant, John, Jesus’ cousin. He calls us to repentance and faith. He prepares the way for Jesus preaching a baptism of repentance to receive the forgiveness of sins. In much the same way the law prepares our hearts for grace and the gift of faith which we receive from the incarnate Word. From there, it moves to the divine announcement of the coming of our Savior in the flesh. Gabriel visits the young maiden, Mary, betrothed to Joseph to proclaim the Good News of God’s gracious plan for salvation of the world. Mary, a woman, would be God’s chosen instrument to bring that Life into the world. All of this leads to the Feast of Christmas, the second highest and feast day in the church year.