Today ends the season of waiting for the advent of Christ. We have been singing, “O come, O come, Emmanuel!” for nearly a month now and the seven titles from the O Antiphons culminate in this calling forth of the One whom they/we recognize as “God with us.” All of the readings today strain forward to his coming. Malachi (3:1-4) foretells that suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. The psalm refrain tells us to lift up your heads and see! as the psalmist pleads: Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me! Finally we hear the gospel story of the birth of John the Baptist who runs before Jesus, preparing the way for him.
I say it’s over when today is only the 23rd. We celebrate Christmas on the 25th. One could characterize this waiting period as having two parts: remote and proximate preparation. All through Advent we have been calling on God to open our hearts to the reality of Christ’s presence in our midst (remote preparation). Tomorrow we spend the day, as Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “on tiptoe” (proximate preparation) – in conscious attention for the fulfillment of the covenant promise. I have always loved the verse from the Book of Wisdom that says, “When all things were silent and night was in the midst of her course, your all-powerful Word, O God, leapt from heaven…” There is a silence at midnight that is unparalleled and conducive of great wonders, usually experienced by our inner selves. That is why our religious tradition gathers us at midnight, or thereabouts, to welcome Emmanuel in a ritual that speaks of light in the darkness and peace for all on earth.
So my goal is to begin to feel, by dawn tomorrow, the shift from conscious waiting to ardent expectation, and to spend tomorrow – no matter what activities claim me – readying myself for that moment when Christ leaps into my heart in a new and fuller way, perhaps in the night. Hyperbole? Maybe…but who of us knows what gifts have been prepared for us and when they will be given? I think it’s worth the wager to be there when it happens.