Today is the last day of Advent before the December 24 segue into Christmastide. It feels like Advent just started; and now it’s almost spent. And that’s all right: one of the things I have come to appreciate about Advent is its brevity. Its blink-and-you-miss-it pace quickens the pulse and sharpens the senses.
This effect is heightened by the contrast between Advent and the six-month season which precedes it, Trinity. In Trinity we spend about half the year focused on living in a good Creation in light of the Triune God’s reign over it. This is time well spent. We are, after all, created beings, set in a world of things God called “very good.” We need extended time to appreciate the grace that God gives us daily, mediated through His creatures. And more, we need time to better learn how to steward those things God has entrusted us with: how to wisely inhabit our land, our communities, our bodies. This work, incidentally, follows quite naturally from observation of the great Feasts of Easter and Pentecost. The Resurrection was and is a bodily resurrection. The Spirit, sent in power at the first Pentecost, fills the bodies of the redeemed, knits them together into one body – the Church – and with the earth groans in anticipating its last liberation from its present futility.
And so in Trinity we work out the lordship of the Triune God over the world, bringing His lordship to bear on every aspect of life: buying and selling, working and resting, sowing and reaping, making war and making peace, being born and preparing to die, marrying and being given in marriage. To the extent we do this well, we may reap in joy. To the extent we do it unwisely or slothfully, we will have to repent. But however we do it, we will learn something very important: Namely, that under the sun – even in our redeemed-in-principle world – all is vapor, and our work a vain attempt to shepherd the wind.
And this ought to annoy us like pebbles in our shoes. We ought not allow this annoyance make us (and everyone around us) miserable, but we do need it to goad us into hoping for – groaning with hope for – something else.
For we can be quite confident that something else is on the way. And we don’t have forever to get ready for it. That is what Advent is about.
It’s interesting to look at the Anglican Advent propers, and their sweep and character. After twenty-odd weeks of present-focused Trinity propers, the Advent propers call us to cast our glances forward and backward. We look back at the promises of God, to Abraham and his offspring, forever, and the many of those promises that have been kept. And we look forward at the rest of the promises, which will be kept, until the knowledge of the steadfast love of God covers the earth as waters cover the seas.
As we walk the tightrope stretched out between beginning and end, this dual vision has two present practical implications – both of which also appear in the Advent propers. First, we can walk boldly. The ends of the rope are firmly tied, and the middle is taut. Since we don’t have to fret the end, we can let it fly in the present. Second, we don’t have much time for dillydallying. The rope before us is getting ever shorter, and, in fact, is actively pulling us forward. So we fling away the rags of darkness, the sins and weights with which we are “sore let” in finishing our course, and we put on better things which will serve us better in the short window of time remaining to us.
 “May”: the prosperity gospel is false. A faithful sower may not get a good harvest every year.