November 11th – St. Martin's day, besides Remembrance Day. In the history of the church, November 11th was the start of Advent, also known as St. Martin's Lent – Advent was the period of 40 days before Christmas. Because of the similarities between Advent and Lent, purple, the colour of penitence and repentance was used for both seasons. Latterly, with Advent being shortened, to the four weeks before the celebration of the Incarnation, and to differentiate it from Lent, we have started to use blue as the colour for Advent, and so if you are at another Anglican church ,and you see blue being used, that is why.
There are some definite similarities between Advent and Lent, holy waiting, a sense of return, or turning back to God, a sense of anticipation leading up to a celebration: Advent with the celebration of the Incarnation, Lent with the celebration of the Resurrection – both ways in which God was breaking into the world in new and different ways, with the Incarnation in taking on human form, living in the flesh and blood. With the resurrection, life beyond the death of the body. Both of these showing God's fulfilment of the promises of God being with us, and of God's promises for life beyond death. There are some differences though too – in Advent we are waiting for the celebration of God breaking into the world, with Lent we are waiting from God breaking out of the tomb.
As society and culture around us kicks into high gear with celebrating “Christmas,” we are in this strange position, totally at odds with the expectations of instant gratification that surround us. At this crazy time of year when everything becomes so busy and such a rush, we need to carve out some time for ourselves so that we can wait, so that we can be, and listen to the Holy Spirit. It is hard, and it takes work – especially when everything around us is telling us not to! The church has a long and venerable history of waiting on God though! And before that.
The Isrealites waited on God when they were invaded and taken off into exile. They cried out “How long, O Lord, how long?!” The disciples when Jesus was crucified – they had to wait for the resurrection, and even then sightings were not to all, but to some. And then in Paul's time, the early church understood that Jesus' coming again would happen in their lifetime. And they waited, and waited and waited. We are the inheritors of the waiting, and of that cry – How long, O Lord, how long?
There is strength in waiting, and we can trust God. Again it is not easy, but we wait with expectation and anticipation because we know that God fulfils God's promises. We wait with peace, joy, hope and love, we wait with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We wait to create space in our lives for God. Amen.