Together they reflect the anticipation of an entire nation for their coming Messiah. When Simeon and Anna saw the baby, Jesus, presented by his parents at the temple, they sensed the time of waiting was over.
By the 7th Century, Advent had become an important event in the Church’s annual calendar. It was a season of celebrating two comings.
The first coming is the birth (nativity) of the Messiah in Bethlehem; and the second coming is the promised return of Jesus Christ to take up his position as Lord of the earth and so establish the fullness of God’s reign on earth.
It is in between these two advents that the Church lives. We look back at the first coming and see Jesus enduring brutality, humiliation and death. We look forward to his return to see him in all his resurrected glory. This is the moment the Church waits for with great anticipation.
But it is not a passive waiting around doing little, but a lively one full of hope and activity. As any expectant mother knows, waiting involves much preparation, care, exercise and hard work. Then as the time draws very close, the waiting involves pain, blood and tears as the birthing process begins. It is called labour for good reasons.
We wait for the return of Jesus with even as much preparation, just as we live as if the rule of Christ has already arrived. Pregnant with hope, we labour and work, we cry and pray, as we rehearse and participate in the coming rule of Jesus. We are, as it has eloquently been said, midwives of another world.
As we enter Advent this year, living in a world of escalating violence and heightened fears of terrorist attacks, it is plain that the world needs God’s peaceful rule to come. Just as the Jews waited for hundreds of years for the Messiah, we too are called to patient waiting, deep soul-searching, and hopeful expectation.
In such circumstances we do well to remember the Psalmist’s words this Advent, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
Stephen L Baxter