There has been some interest in recent years on the liturgical renewal of a seven week Advent. I thought I might give my thoughts on the matter.
In the early days of the liturgical calendar there were several competing versions of the calendar. It took a while for it all to get standardized. In the western Church, Advent took on a penitential tone in some places and in others a more expectant and second-coming-y. In some places it was seven weeks and in other places it began four Sundays before the Nativity. In the end, four weeks won out and Advent became the “mini-Lent” many of us know. Recently the “mini-Lent” has been displaced and the themes of joyous expectation, preparation, and Jesus’ coming into the world have reemerged as the primary character of the season. This fits nicely with the four week Advent with prophets, angels, and a whole lot of great hymns.
But there is still the second-coming-y parts of Advent to deal with. In the current lectionary, the Second Coming parts are left in the old year’s lectionary and the joyous expectation parts are in the new Gospel, thus separating them. The folks who are interested in a seven week Advent want to bring those parts back together, recognizing liturgically the unity of Advent. I have a friend who talked about it this way. First, we prepare for Jesus who came into the world at Christmas. Second, Jesus comes to us daily in our lives. Third, we are preparing for Jesus who is to come in glory. The seven week Advent makes this connection very clear.
Does this matter? No, is the short answer. Whether Advent is four or seven weeks long does not change the suffering in this world, solve the problems facing our nation, or make one bit of difference to folks who are bound in fear and death. But focusing for a time each year on how Jesus’ came to us, comes to us, and is coming again to us does make a difference. As we spend time contemplating what God-with-us means, we begin to see the way God sees. We see that there is a fourth coming of Christ: Us. We are Christ’s body in the world and we are able to deal with suffering, solve problems, and unbind the bound in this world. As we spend time joyfully anticipating Christ’s coming we allow ourselves space to see where God is calling us to be Christ already present. How are you Christ Jesus already present in the world?