For the second year in a row, I was tasked with preparing the turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner. If you’re a careful reader, you can deduce that means that I didn’t screw it up last year – on the contrary, my first run at smoking a turkey was an unbelievable success! It wasn’t dried out, it had an amazing flavor, and it even presented well on the platter!
The secret, it turns out, is all in the preparation. There are about a week’s worth of steps that go into this particular turkey recipe, including days of thawing, more days of brining, grocery store runs, seasoning, basting, smoking, and resting. A week’s worth of work for one turkey! That might sound like it’s a little much, but the truth is, I enjoyed the process. I’m not the most “Type A” personality, and I’ve had my fair share of potlucks where I swung by Little Caesar’s to scoop up a Hot-N-Ready on the way.
The thing was, spending a week on this one bird made me look forward to the meal even more. It brought my attention past the moment I was in, and toward the feast that lay ahead. Perhaps most importantly, it made me appreciate the entire Thanksgiving dinner even more because I had been waiting expectantly for days!
This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, the season that starts the Church’s liturgical calendar (so, Happy New Year’s, everyone!). Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “arrival”; the purpose of this season to wait expectantly. We wait to celebrate the Incarnation - the birth of Jesus, the incredible moment when “the Word became flesh and lived among us.”
In the strange, profound understanding of time that we hold in the Church, we anticipate something that has already happened. With hopeful expectancy, we look backwards at what God has done. However, there is another cause for waiting in this season – just as we celebrate Christ’s coming in our collective past, we look ahead to Christ’s Second Coming. Lester Ruth, a professor at Duke Divinity School and a historian of Christian worship, offered this distinction for Advent: “The simplest way I have to distinguish between Advent and Christmas is that Advent uses the word ‘come’ as a longing petition, expressed in anticipation, whereas Christmas is a commemorative reflection on how the Lord has come in Christ's birth and thus the trigger for a new redemptive order has begun.” The Word became flesh and dwelled with us, and now we live with God’s own Spirit within us, and yearn for the day when there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth.
I invite you to join in the preparation, the collective work of this Advent season. Join us in a swelling celebration, as we light candles to burn against the darkness, read stories of those who made a way in the wilderness for Heaven to kiss Earth, and join our voices with all of the saints asking for God to redeem and renew the world – O come, O come, Emmanuel!