Most people see the season of Advent as a time to prepare for the birth of Christ in Bethlehem. The angel announces his coming to Mary; the shepherds and the wise men visit him as an infant. He’s presented in the temple.
The time of Advent is a time to put up the creche, the tree and the lights. Most people see Advent in a linear, historical way, within the time frame of those few events.
But Advent is about the mystery of the Incarnation. Jesus not only became human in Mary’s womb and was born in Bethlehem. He became part of the humanity of his time and indeed all time, our time.
He came in the fulness of time.The readings early on in Advent speak about the beginning and end of the world. Most of the Old Testament readings in Advent are from the Prophet Isaiah who promises that all nations will come to Jerusalem’s holy mountain when the Messiah appears. Many of the Advent readings early in Advent are about John the Baptist and his ministry. Jesus came, Advent says, to enter the company of prophets like Elijah, Isaiah and John who not only tell us he is coming but also tell us what his mission will be and what happens because he embraces that mission.
Advent takes us beyond the events of Jesus’ birth.
Today’s gospel says Jesus entered the temple on his final journey to Jerusalem and he’s questioned and opposed by the chief priests and elders of the people. They will put him to death. (Matthew 21: 23-27)
Our liturgy, like the scriptures, is not simply linear and historical in its approach to Jesus. We’re invited to see things “ as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever, world without end.” This is the way God sees things.
“Come thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, joy of all the earth thou are; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.” (Charles Wesley)