This week, we begin a new journey through the annual cycle of the Christian church in its worship life. The cycle begins with the season of Advent... a season during which we prepare for the coming of Christ. Even as we make ready to remember the baby being born in Bethlehem (what we'll celebrate during the Christmas season beginning on Christmas Eve), our focus during Advent takes us beyond simply the birth—and even beyond the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus— to a new moment of expectancy as the "day of the Lord" approaches and we look for the coming again of Christ. In other words, in Advent we orient ourselves toward the coming of Christ in history, mystery, and majesty: the baby of Bethlehem, the glimpses of Christ's presence in our midst now, and the coming again of Christ in glory at the end of all times.
As the new church year opens, we begin with a wake-up call: Christ is coming soon! In this Sunday’s readings, both Paul and Jesus challenge us to wake from sleep, for we know neither the day nor hour of the Lord’s coming. The promise has rung down through the ages since the prophets of old: God will gather all people on the holy mountain and there will be no more war or suffering. Though we vigilantly watch for the promised day of salvation, we wait for what we already have: Christ comes among us this day as the Holy Word and Holy Feast that strengthen our faith in the promises of God.