Advent means “arrival,” and during this season of the church year we prepare for God’s arrival.
Bernard of Clairvaux, the twelfth-century abbot and theologian, wrote of “three Advents”:
- The Incarnation; the Advent at the first Christmas when God became flesh and dwelt among us.
- The Advent at this Christmas.
- And last of all, the Parousia, the Advent at the end of the age.
The second or “middle” Advent, the one in between the other two, is the everyday arrival of Jesus: the host at the table, the still small voice, the grieving friend, the hungry child, the weary migrant.
In other words, Jesus comes to us again and again, calling us, inviting us to help repair the world, little by little, a thousand swords remade into a thousand ploughshares. God’s peace, God’s shalom, dawns even now — though its glimmers aren’t always obvious at first. Rather, they often shine in unexpected places, through unexpected people and creatures, and at unexpected hours. Keep awake! Be ready!
Mary Oliver’s classic poem, Making the House Ready for the Lord, illuminates these glimmers.
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice — it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances — but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.
To who or what might you say ‘come in’?
-Written by Rev. Ann Palmerton, with thanks to Salt Project’s Advent Week One Commentary
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