As we enter the Season of Advent, we enter a time of expectation. Four weeks where we live into the expectation of the coming Messiah, both as it happened in the past, and as it will happen in the future. This fall, our diocese had the opportunity to dedicate significant time to Set Sail, the Diocesan strategic plan. Many of us have left these intentional times of discernment to continue the work in our parishes. As we focus on the setting of goals, on the returning to ourselves and to Jesus, it makes sense that we would now seek to view Set Sail through the lens of Advent. Our church year has a rhythm that informs our faith and I believe this rhythm can only help with the intentional re-centring we are prioritizing in Set Sail.
When I think about the examples of faithfulness the lectionary offers us during the season of Advent, I notice the consistent state of expectation and hope in which the people of these biblical stories lived their lives. They believed God was at work in their world and it led them to put their future in God’s hands.
Specifically, I think of Elizabeth. Elizabeth knew that her pregnancy, after years of infertility, was a gift from God, exclaiming in Luke, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people” (Luke 1:25, NRSV). The mystery surrounding her pregnancy, her husband’s inability to speak, the experience of her unborn son jumping for joy at Mary’s touch, was proof to her that God was at work. She expected something blessed to come from her experience. Then, upon the birth of her son, she insists on a name unlike any in her family. Elizabeth trusted God’s word to her husband because she knew God’s plan was bigger than she could ever imagine. Elizabeth may not have gotten to witness how her son prepared the way for the Messiah, but she believed that her faith in God would mean good things for her and her community.
It is this history of expectation, this history of trusting God, it is this Advent message that should inform our Set Sail work throughout the end of the year. At the core of Set Sail is the commitment to return to God, returning to our listening, and following of God as the centre of our personal faith lives, our community life, and our decision making. Advent challenges us to live like we expect God to do something—like we expect God to show up. So, the question is: in our Set Sail planning, in our returning to God, do we actually believe God will do something? Are we actually planning like we expect God to show up? Because we will not see the full potential of our intention, we will not see the God-given fruit of our ministry if we do not believe God is active, if we do not infuse our prayer, our praise, our planning, with the sort of Holy expectation that Advent teaches us.
So, as we enter the season of Advent, the invitation is this: to live into the “Advent Rhythm” in such a way that it will permeate our Set Sail plans, meaning this disposition of expectation which declares that God will carry us into our future, and will stay with us as we commit to working toward goals that deepen relationships and encourage transforming discipleship.