Our lives are often cyclic. We wake up, go to school or work, go home, relax, sleep and then repeat until the weekend. Most of us enjoy the constant patterns of our lives and can find joy and security in the ‘ordinariness’ of life.
As a college we also experience an annual cycle that begins at the end of January and then concludes in December, we know the rhythm of the year and all of the events that faithfully reappear in due course. On Wednesday this week the last of our students completed their 2016 VCAA Exams, thus ending one of the ‘seasons’ of our college year.
These students have finished all of their secondary studies and now prepare to celebrate the year for a final time at the graduation dinner. The ‘Grad’ is a fantastic conclusion to a year that for many has been the ‘biggest’ of their lives so far. The preparations for this final gathering holds much excitement and tremendous anticipation of that final chance to celebrate not only this year but in fact all of their schooling so far.
It is a time of epochal change. The end of an era. Nothing will ever be the same for these young people again. Many will choose to continue with Tertiary Education, some will be fortunate enough to secure an apprenticeship and a few will enlist in the Armed Forces.
This time of waiting is mirrored in our liturgical year, with the first Sunday of Advent only a week away. The shops have had Christmas decorations on display for a while already and within days they will be transformed along with public areas through our region. The floating Christmas tree has been re-launched, bunting will soon be hung on street lights and we may even see some radiant community art in the lanes around the city. Children young and old will very soon become focused on the big day! This waiting is what the season of Advent actually is about.
We often frame the birth of Jesus, the Christ, as Christmas. The family get together, gifts and gastronomic bliss. Children rightly get caught up in what presents they will get from Santa, family and friends. As adults we however shift our focus slightly. Whilst enjoying the excitement of gift giving and receiving, we also focus on the wholeness of this time. We wait for Christ. It is a reminder of the great joy that came into the world so many years ago, with the birth of a child to parents who had little, but faith in God and his promise to a young unwedded woman and her fiancé.
The synoptic Gospels offer us an illustration of John the Baptist. John was prophesized hundreds of years before by Isaiah, who proclaimed “prepare the way of the Lord, make his ways straight”. Just as John called for people to repent and be baptized, we also evaneglise and spread the Good News. As our Year 12 students enter the wider community they do so as 'young people for others'. The way in which they interact with those they meet in their lives, the care they offer to those who are hunger, abandoned, ill or afflicted will be a testament to their own integrity and also in part to the strong bond with their family and their years at Saint Ignatius College.
Throughout the weeks of Advent we are invited to prepare ourselves and renew our commitment to others and our relationship with our God. We might be encouraged to seize the day and make the time to be with those we love now, rather than wait for the big Christmas gathering. We might make good relationships that have not been nourished or reach out to those in our lives whom we need to walk more closely with. We may commit to spending more time connecting with God or seeking him in all we meet and in everything we experience.
Sometimes God can be found in the most unlikely places. Many years ago He came to us as a baby, born into a word not ready for him, in a barn not fit for you or I; let alone the Messiah, Immanuel, God who is with us.
As we farewell these young men and women we do so with the hope that their lives are filled with great success and much joy. We pray that they enjoy this period of waiting as they move on to their next great life journey. I hope that you rejoice in the season of Advent and waiting also. The reward surely is just as exciting no matter what stage of life you are passing through.
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight"'.
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, 'The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'
Brendon Nicholls is the liturgy coordinator at St Ignatius College, Geelong.
Photo: Luftphilia; Flickr CreativeCommons license