But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! ~ Saint Paul to the Roman Church
Ask anyone these days the simple question, “How are you doing?” and you’re bound to get an answer something like “Oh my, I’m so busy!” Still others will say, “I can’t believe how fast time goes!” Everyone seems to be held captive by busyness, everyone seems to be running to and fro, caught up in the day-to-day stuff that none of us can seem to escape. Time, it seems, is a precious resource and we seem to be in short supply.
Sadly, the Advent season only contributes to this sense of busyness. All the shopping, decorating and endless Christmas parties only make life more hectic. Advent today is little more than getting ready for Christmas, not in the sense of preparing our hearts and lives, but getting ready for a day, Christmas Day. But Advent really calls us to reflect on time. Advent is about the dawning of a new time, a new way of keeping time and a reprioritizing of how we use time.
Yes, Advent is a time of anticipation, but we anticipate by slowing down, not speeding up. This slowing down is marked by the lighting of candles each week of Advent. These candles remind us of the purpose of Advent, to mark time both together and in our lives, with hope, peace, joy and love. We slowly retell the story, set the context for what we are to celebrate. Without taking time to remember that without the stories of John the Baptist, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, Simeon, and Anna there is no Jesus story, no Christmas story.
In the older Advent traditions of the church this emphasis on time is even more heightened. As Christians we are called to remember the “four last things”: death, judgment, hell and heaven. Advent took on a more penitential tone, a mini-Lent almost. And while this may be too sullen and bleak for what we know Advent to be today, it still calls us to a different appreciation of time. It reminds us that in Jesus Christ, a new age dawns, old things pass away and we now keep a new rhythm of life. It calls us to reprioritize how we use our time, and like the wild-eyed John the Baptist in the wilderness, it calls us to make preparations for this new way.
So we are left with a question: How do we get ready for the advent of Christ? Not the baby Jesus, but the cosmic Christ who was, who is and is to come, who is always coming. Jesus, who has so shaped our understanding that we mark time differently. Jesus, who turns everything upside down.
What time is it? It’s time to slow down and get ready. This Advent make time for reflection, for love, for opening ourselves up to others, for ways to take part in this new thing God is doing in Christ.