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.
Working in a school, I 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
Brendon Nicholls is the liturgy coordinator at St Ignatius College, Geelong.