I grew up in the Baptist tradition, and though we celebrated Advent, I didn’t know much about it, other than that it was the countdown to Christmas, which meant a new horde of G.I. Joe toys to war with, tons of food to eat at my grandmother’s house, and that we got to play with fire in church.
Two boys were chosen each week, one to do the reading and the other to light the candles. I don’t know what deacon in the church’s history decided it would be prudent to hand candles and matches to prepubescent boys and think nothing could possibly happen. While waiting in the lobby for the appointed time, we became arsonists, flicking matches and trying to burn one another. Our grand finale was a rush to be the one who blew the candles out after the service. That person got to dip their fingers in hot wax and make a second “skin” they could later peel it off.
Somewhere, the Advent of the Savior of World was lost in our escapades. We were young and ignorant, not paying attention. Fast forward 30 years, I find myself in the Catholic faith, and while I still anticipate the excitement of Christmas, Advent takes on a more somber tone. I look around and I feel that many my age are still ignorant to what is being revealed all around them.
Advent is truly apocalyptic in nature. Popular movies and literature have mistakenly defined the apocalypse as the end of the world. While there is some truth to that, the Greek meaning implies a secret, something that is revealed. See, Jewish prophecy is not simply prediction and fulfillment, as our Western minds might think, but rather pattern. A constant uncovering of the eyes, a continuing glimpse of what is to come.
The Advent readings point to this so clearly. Old Testament prophecies herald of a time when the Rightful King will take His throne, judgements will be true, and all will be peaceful again. We know that was fulfilled in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but in a “now and not yet” fashion. This is the layered pattern of prophecy. I’m no theologian, but I do know that while Christ reconciled the world to Himself, just maybe the world hasn’t caught up to that yet. The Father has revealed Jesus to us and is still revealing Him to us. Every Advent this mystery is declared, yet we still truly see through a glass darkly.