The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison; to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord. (Isaiah 61:1-2)
What season of the Christian year is most charcteristic of the Christian life?
You see, I think that as Christians, we often think life is a sort of perpetual Lent. It is about repentance from sin, and doing without, and suffering in union with Christ. There is a certain drabness - just as the Church is undecorated so the Christian life is about sacrifice. Perhaps that's the kind of idea that we have grown up with.
But as a reflection of the Christian life it is too bleak, too negative, too much about suffering and not enough about victory, too much about sacrifice and not enough about happiness.
Or perhaps Easter is a better idea. If is a time of happiness and rejoicing. After all, through baptism we die and rise with Christ. In Communion we share in his risen life. Christ has saved us from sin, so we rejoice in the new life we share in him. This is our Easter faith. And over and over again we sing alleluia.
But is Easter typical of the Christian life? It's full of hope. It's optimistic. It's positive. But perhaps that's too much. We know all too well about our sins and imperfections and sufferings. We are Easter people - but not quite yet.
No. I think that more than any other season it is Advent which characterises the Christian life. Advent is a time of joy. Not only do we still sing Alleluia, but we also sing Rejoice! Emmanuel will come! And we echo the words of the first Christians 'Come. Lord Jesus!'. We eagerly await his coming. It is a time of joy, but in waiting we also realise that the best is yet to come. This life has its incompleteness, it's shortcomings, its imperfections.
We wait for the fulness of Christ's presence, yet we do so with a sure and clear hope. Advent is a time of rejoicing, a time of anticipation, a time of hope, a time when we know what it is to do without, because we know what is yet to come.