Our students at The Episcopal Academy know about waiting. They wait in anticipation for their favorite class. They wait in anticipation for the big game under the lights on Friday night. They wait in anticipation for the opening show of the spring musical. They wait in anticipation for the response to their college applications. As a result, we align Advent with the anticipation they have already experienced in life. However, we teach that Advent provides the anticipation built on hope of better things to come. A hope that allows us to enter the mystery of who we are called to be. A hope that allows the image of God in us to embrace the image of God in others. We know about waiting.
At The Episcopal Academy, we honor our religiously diverse student population. Our students know that we can embrace the faith of other traditions without placing the Anglican tradition on a back burner. Therefore, Advent becomes a time when we invite all our students to enter into the mystery of not only the incarnation but also the second coming of the Christ. We know about waiting.
We behold our mission challenging and nurturing boys and girls in mind, body, and spirit to lead lives of purpose, faith, and integrity. We realize we are called to help our students understand what they believe as opposed to moving them to change what they believe. We create a sense of community and belonging in which we can celebrate our rich diversity and also celebrate Advent as a time recognizing we are part of something greater than ourselves. Therefore, it is normal to share the great mysteries surrounding Advent – the mysteries of the virgin birth, the arrival of the Christ child, and even the second coming. We know about waiting.
Advent reminds us that we can wait with hope. We trust that Advent will take us where we need to be as a society. We gather in chapel every day as a community of many believers who understand that we must respect the individual dignity of every human being. This gathering grants us the hope that we accept what we learn in the sanctuary and take it into the world, the world where God’s kingdom can unfold even while we wait in anticipation of what Christmas promises. Yes, our gaze falls upon Christmas during our days of Advent, but we remind ourselves that Advent is not just a means to an end. Advent provides us with the backdrop that our diversity makes us whole, makes us real, makes us God’s beloved. Therefore, we wait in anticipation as a community. Yes, we know about waiting.
Advent provides the intellectual mystery of the already here and yet to come. Our students comprehend mystery, which allows us to trust life and realize that most of life is a both/and proposition not an either/or dilemma. Our high school students may know this reality more so than the younger students because they have reached the highest levels of what we offer in terms of sports, academics, and service. They also realize there is more yet to come.
As a community, we know about waiting. We also know that if we wait together, then we will not experience the anxiety of uncertainty, but will instead welcome the mystery of God’s future Kingdom, which offers sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, freedom to the captives. For us, Advent is the anticipation of celebrating the birth of Jesus and the awaiting for the Second Coming of the Messiah.
Finally, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus and bring 900 people together in our chapel on Christmas Eve, we, regardless of our religious traditions, realize the sacred is revealed to us as a community. After communion is served to all who attend, we distribute candles and turn the lights off and sing Silent Night. The one voice of many. The one light of Christ fills up our chapel. Consequently, we look to the nativity as the sacred gathering welcoming Christ in our broken world. As we sing, we see our tiny candles of light outshine the darkness. We sing and wait for the final note to dissipate into the evening. After blowing out our candles and before the final blessing, we pause and wait.
After all we know about waiting.
[Image Credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]