Whenever I attend Catholic mass during Advent, as I did last weekend,
I’m always struck by how it is simply assumed—how it’s a liturgical .
. . no, an ontological given—that Christmas is nowhere yet in sight.
Working with this week's apocalyptic Gospel text evokes
memories of childhood experiences and teachings in a Mennonite congregation
with a fundamentalist understanding of Bible and life. Within that setting,
however, my family was solidly Anabaptist in outlook and rooted in social
justice concerns. My public school was, for a community in the middle of rural
Illinois, a virtual hotbed of ecumenicity, with all the major and many of the
minor denominations represented. All this made for some interesting tensions,
especially in a family with an ethos of discernment rather than rules.
As a child, I remember hearing in church about the second coming and Jesus returning. Long before the Left Behind series arrived, I heard the mournful strains of "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" around our church campfires.
The church has traditionally considered Advent a penitential season, a
time for changing one’s mind and re-turning to God. It’s a time for
preparing the way of the Lord, the One who will come to consummate all
things in the rule of God.