Like many people who live in cities, I often find myself waiting for some form of public transportation. When I’m waiting, whether for the bus or the metro, it is almost impossible not to find myself straining for signs that something is about to arrive: the glimmer of lights in the distance, the faint hum of an approaching train. When I catch myself scanning for these signals, I’m reminded of an anecdote I once read. Two friends were waiting for a bus, and eventually one could be seen approaching in the distance. “The bus is coming,” one friend said, relieved to finally have this visual confirmation that its approach was imminent. “The bus was always coming,” replied the friend.
During Advent, and especially in this final week, we can all but see Christ approaching in the distance. After what sometimes feels like a long wait, all the signs point to His imminent arrival. In the same way, as we near the end of Advent, we approach the end of a period in which we have the reassuring presence of symbols to remind us of Christ’s approach. Whether it be through spiritual rituals like the lighting of the fourth candle or, in a more secular way, the annual traditions many of us enact in the final days before Christmas, from travels home to baking gingerbread, you can look around, and your eyes and ears and nose with all tell you that Jesus is almost here. Like Mary in this week’s Gospel, we are given notice that the time is coming when the son of God will enter the world in human form.
This may feel like can feel like the culmination of preparation, and hopefully there is a deep sense of peace in welcoming Jesus into a heart made ready through spiritual preparation. On the other hand, maybe we are realizing that we have been so busy that we haven’t even been paying much attention to the signs leading up to His arrival. Or maybe this was a year in which, for any number of reasons, it was hard to feel close to Christ even in the weeks leading up to His nativity. The Advent candles shine as brightly as they do because the weeks in which they are lit are the darkest of the year; this can be a time of stress, anxiety, and doubt. The opportunity to reflect on the end of a calendar year can provoke questions that are sometimes uncomfortable to ask, and to answer.
But, the second friend was right: even before it was close enough to be visible, the bus was indeed still making its way towards its destination. Without being able to see or hear it, it can be hard to feel sure that something is coming, but that makes its eventual approach no less real. Whether we knew it or not, Christ was always coming. In the final days before the celebration of Christmas we have the opportunity to embrace that knowledge in a special way, and rest in it with a sense of security and peace. Whatever we have tried to do to prepare ourselves for Christ’s arrival, He is going to be there to welcome us. In remembering this, we are also reminded that in any liturgical season, at any time in our lives, this is a deep and abiding truth. The visible reminders of Advent manifest the hidden reminders we should carry in our hearts at all times: Christ is always coming. Every day of the year.
By: Danielle Barkley