For some weeks now, as we heard in the sermon this past Sunday, our lectionary readings have been foreshadowing the coming of the Christ Child into the world, which is a pretty good definition for the Advent season itself.
The Gospel reading for this Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, lines out a number of these vivid images.
There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars.
Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
Look at the fig tree and all the trees: as soon as they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.
So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down and that day catch you unexpectedly like a trap.
Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place and to stand before the Son of Man.
Sunday's worshipers will immediately notice some different things. Sarum blue paraments and vestments, the color associated with the Virgin Mary. Eucharistic Prayer B in Rite Two, with its incarnation language. Prayers of the People, Form IV, with its penitential responses.
The plainsong chant Psalm sung a cappella by the cantor and congregation. Service music Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, based upon the ancient plainsong chant Veni, Veni Emmanuel as arranged by Richard Proulx. A simpler, quieter time, even musically.
Advent is not necessarily a penitential season but preparatory. Like Lent, it is a time to not heap on more to do (easier said than done) but a time pare away the excess, leaving more room to anticipate, expect, await, and yes, witness the physical arrival of God into the world.
There will be signs.
And then we will see.
So, be on guard.
And be alert.
Because like the shepherds and the Magi, we will joyfully stand in awe before the Son of God in a stable, the place everyone would have least expected.