Advent is only the beginning
In the gospels
For the last four months, I’ve been reading & rereading the gospels each month. This year has held a lot of division: from politics to injustice to how to act during a pandemic. I have felt this acutely, and as the peak of political season approached, I caught up to the fact that I needed to know and to see Jesus better. I needed to look him in the eyes, to watch his every move, to learn how he walked through politics and injustice and a culture full of clashing, much like our own.
Every 30-ish days, I took about a week in each gospel book, simply reading. I didn’t journal out lengthy personal responses; I wanted Jesus to remain the main thing, not me or my thoughts. I underlined. I jotted snippets of who he was or what he did or how he responded in the margins. I circled signs of abundant life in John. I tallied the actions of love in Luke.
Advent & Preparation
As Advent—the time we longingly look at Jesus’ first coming, and hopefully wait for his return—begins today, I started another round of reading through the gospels. This month, I’m reading the complete story: a book that synthesizes all four gospels into one narrative. I read the first section this morning: “preparation for ministry.”
Yesterday I wrote a little bit on that word “prepare,” and dwelt on Mary’s preparation: both in body and in heart. Her body went through many internal changes to prepare to give birth. Her heart was less passive, as she treasured the events of birth and childhood, and wondered what they could mean. She didn’t have full insight into the mysterious child she held and nursed and love. She was learning as she went. She was prepared in the doing, in the work of being a mom.
The last story in Jesus’ preparation season even involved her. She told Jesus to take care of a problem at a wedding. He retorted, “It’s not my time yet,” but she was determined: “Do whatever he tells you to do.” She had a hunch that he was ready, perhaps even before he realized it.
Her treasuring the events and questions in her mind surrounding this son of hers led to her serving him, to her knowing when the time was right for him to give a glimpse of glory to waiting Israel, to a wedding party. Jesus describes himself as a bridegroom multiples times as he begins teaching, so how fitting that his first sign be at a wedding, honoring the bridegroom and his guests with miraculous, gloriously-good-tasting wine?
Continuing the Advent Story, with us
My favorite thing about reading and rereading the gospels during this season has been this phrase: “this is only the beginning.” The story of Jesus isn’t a complete one yet; every single gospel finishes with the disciples, with how they are to finish the story, to hasten its end.
Our lives are meant to be the continuation of the story of Jesus.
In this same way, Advent is only the beginning. If we view this season as just that: a season with limits, ending when we take down our trees in a few weeks, we will miss the whole purpose. Advent is about waiting and longing and hoping—words that don’t mean much when confined to one event, even if it is the birth of Jesus, an explosive story of God entering the world.
Because it’s not just about God entering the world.
Advent is about God entering our stories.
God enters Mary’s story, lifting her up from her lowly estate to be the very means of Jesus being born and a catalyst for his ministry, even when she doesn’t fully understand what it all means.
God enters human story after human story in Jesus—through calling disciples, healing, casting out demons, etc.
But it doesn’t stop there. He is still entering our stories. Advent is only the beginning; all our lives need his advent, need his coming and his changing.
We don’t just need his birth; nor just his death and resurrection. We need his whole story; we need his words, his miracles, his entire life to encounter our own.