Advent is the beginning of a new church year. It generally starts right after Thanksgiving. So while the world awaits a new year in January, here we sit as the church already immersed in a new year, and I think it is good we remember that. It is also good we remember that our new year always starts us off in the spirit of preparation.
Somewhere the winds of the ages carry the sound of a lone voice in the wilderness which proclaimed, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.” We have heard this voice before, we have heard this shout before. It comes back to us every Advent as surely as the colder weather of the winter months. It comes back to us because for some reason or another we seem to need to hear it again.
From one year to the next so much of life changes. I looked at pictures of myself from when I first arrived to Georgia three years ago. I look older now, because three years is three years even if three years isn’t that long. As I think of what the three years has brought with it there appears a constant stream of change. New friends and family have been found. Some friends and family have been lost to the sands of time that will eventually take us all. I have a child now, he just turned two.
A year passes by, and we wonder how it went by so quickly, yet as we examine that year we also wonder how so much happened, how so much occurred and so much changed. At some point last year we considered why we were preparing our hearts for Jesus again. “Haven’t I already done this?” many of us thought in some form or another. And while the answer is, “Yes, I have already done this,” perhaps we do it again because we need to.
In this last year, as life changed, as people entered our lives and people left, as we grew a little older, and hopefully just a bit wiser, we get to a point where we realize we are not quite the same people we were last year.
Our experiences mold us, if ever so slightly, so we become someone different even as we are the same. So then we get to Advent and that voice from the Baptizer hits our ears again. Those familiar scriptures are read aloud again. The candles are lit in order again.
And we sit where we sat the year before needing to have Jesus again, because the truth is sometimes a year takes us back into the wilderness. Perhaps our wilderness is grief. Hospital rooms are wildernesses for many. Then again maybe it is unemployment, or psychological torment, or just something as simple as monotony. Maybe our days all mesh together and there is nothing about us that feels special or unique at all, that’s a wilderness for sure.
So we sit in our little wildernesses and John’s voice is heard again, and wouldn’t you know it? We need to prepare ourselves to receive Jesus again because we need Jesus again.
Perhaps people come to church more during this time of year because somewhere deep inside of each of us is that hope that we will receive Jesus again. That life, if but for a moment, will be peaceful, hopeful, and have a bit of joy in the midst of our wildernesses. Well at least I hope that is what we will all receive, because God knows we can all use a little bit of that.
And maybe that is why the church begins her year a little earlier than the rest of the world, where Christmas is toward the beginning as opposed to at the end. It is a good way to start. So let us come together once more in the spirit of preparation, hoping that we will receive Jesus once more, and thereby start another year that will change us as best we can.