One of the gifts of our Anglican tradition is the liturgical calendar. Every year we cycle through its seasons following the life of Jesus and his teachings. Every year we are invited again into Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary time, ending with the Reign of Christ. We walk with Jesus and all those whose lives he touched to deepen our own understanding and life in Christ.
At the Reign of Christ we lean forward to a future time when all will be healed and restored under the reign of Jesus even as we live now in the painful reality that it has not yet come. The cycle then plunges us back into Advent, imagining that time when Christ will come again, even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming.
Our hearts long for the healing of the world and of our own lives. Sometimes we yearn for God to intervene with power and fix it now! This is especially so as the pandemic lingers on and the side effects of its power are felt in economics and global issues as well as mental and emotional exhaustion.
Advent yearning for God’s kingdom to come, however, is met with the paradox of the birth of Christ. He comes not in power but in the vulnerability and weakness of a baby. His coming is not in triumph but hidden amongst the stories of Elizabeth and Mary and Joseph, ordinary people of faith in God. The seeds of the kingdom are in the faith of Mary and Joseph even as world events swirl around them, buffeting their lives and sending them from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt and back again.
The liturgical calendar takes us from the vulnerability of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus through his ministry, life and death, to the power of his resurrection, in order to show us the power and potential of the reign of God through him—in spite of all we currently see.
The pandemic appears to be waning in its grip on our lives. Just as a receding tsunami leaves evidence of destruction in its wake, our communities will continue to see the aftereffects for many months to come. There is a deep concern for the mental health of many in our communities of all ages. The healing we long for and the vision of the reign of Christ in the face of all our losses seems so far away. Christmas draws us back to the seed of our hope planted in the womb of Mary. It will still be thirty years before Jesus’ ministry begins in earnest. Yet Mary echoes Hannah and Elizabeth in her song of trust in what God is doing, known as the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord….”
In the midst of our weariness with the pandemic and its long aftereffects, we know that God’s kingdom will come—and in the meantime, in this moment, our liturgical calendar takes us back to see again how God works in the world, planting seeds of hope that may take years or generations to be fulfilled but will come to fruition as they have in the past.
Elizabeth, Mary and generations of disciples have known the truth of this promise. So we with St. Paul claim it in our worship when we proclaim:
Glory to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
Glory to God from generation to generation, in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.