As we anticipate the Christmas season, officially twelve days long no matter what the malls and department stores say, we look forward each year to celebrating the arrival of the long-awaited Christ Child.
However, we can safely say that the Advent season is basically given over to Mary the Mother of Jesus and to John the Baptist.
Each lectionary year, of the four Advent Sundays, both the Advent II and Advent III Gospel readings reintroduce John the Baptist to us. And in two out of the three lectionary years, the Advent IV Gospel readings are the Visitation (Mary visited by the angel) and the Magnificat (“My soul doth magnify the Lord”).
This past Sunday, we sang the hymns “Prepare the way, O Zion,” “Comfort, comfort, ye my people,” “There’s a voice in the wilderness crying,” and “On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry.” This Sunday the Parish Choir will sing David Hurd’s setting of the traditional text, “This is the record of John” along with the hymn “The desert shall rejoice.” All for John the Baptist.
Well, actually for the birth of Jesus, but we get the point.
And in a week, on Advent IV, the morning of Sunday, December. 24, we will hear the Gospel story of the Visitation, for which we will sing the Magnificat plainsong canticle. All for Mary the Mother of Jesus.
And later that day, at 4:00, 6:00 and 11:00 p.m., the season will automatically, mysteriously, and liturgically convert into The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (AKA Christmas Eve). Between the 4:00 liturgy and our 10:00 a.m. Christmas Day service, 1,000-plus people will celebrate the birth of Jesus in this sacred place.
I hope we are having a focused, effective Advent that is preparing us for the grand celebration of Christmas, a bit of an oxymoron as the Christ Child arrived in circumstances that were anything but grand.
After the brass and organ fanfares, the colorful liturgical processions, and the pomp and circumstance of praising God, which we all love on Christmas Eve, we will meet the Christ Child (God come down to earth) at the altar at the Eucharist, followed by the very quiet singing of “Silent night” at the end of Communion.
May John the Baptist and Mary the Mother of Jesus guide us through this Advent and help make us worthy. And may we worthily meet the Christ Child in stillness and purity, and with quiet and contrite hearts, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.