Advent, the first season of the Church’s liturgical year, ritualizes the human experience of waiting for God and the wondrous, mysterious timetable by which love incarnate arrives. Advent reveals how differently Christians tell time. A believer’s clock resets itself at Advent, for with Christ’s arrival time begins anew. This accounts for the ancient practice of dividing history into two epochs – BC and AD – (before Christ and “Anno Domini,” the year of our Lord).
Since we live in the unique “time zone” of faith, we sometimes find ourselves “out of sync” with the cultural celebration of the holidays. In our society, the Christmas season ends on December 25th but for Christians it is just beginning. Like a faithful pregnant mother, the Church knows to delay the full celebration until her child is born. Thus, Christians begin singing carols in Church just about the time they cease playing on the radio.
Like all of God’s time, the season of Advent is cyclical, celebrating the same sequence of faith events year after year. Yet, the cyclical calendar is different than “going around in circles.” If we follow God’s time faithfully, we arrive at the same place but with a stronger faith, a truer hope, and a deeper love. Christmas is different each year because we are different. We have grown and changed.