Advent means “coming” or “arrival”. Lasting only four weeks, it is traditionally a season of quiet and joyful expectancy. Advent has a two-fold character: a time of preparation for the festival of the Nativity when the first coming of God’s Son to the world is recalled and a period of reflection pointing us to Christ’s second coming at the end of time. This is a season of prophecy, calling us to conversion, preparation and a constant sense of watchfulness. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, expecting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination or prediction. In a word, it is a season of waiting and this waiting becomes meaningful when we can wait together.
One of the passages of Scripture that exemplifies this style of waiting together is found in Luke 1:39-56, which tells us about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. The meeting of these two women is very moving, because Elizabeth and Mary came together and enabled each other to wait. Mary’s visit made Elizabeth aware of what she was waiting for. The child leapt for joy in her. Mary affirmed Elizabeth’s waiting. And then Elizabeth said to Mary, “Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45). And Mary responded, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” (Lk 1:46). She burst into joy herself. These two women created space for each other to wait: They affirmed for each other that something was happening worth waiting for.
Here we see a model for the Christian community. It is a community of support, celebration and affirmation in which we can lift up what has already begun in us. The visit to Elizabeth to Mary is one of the Bible’s most beautiful expressions of what it means to form community, to be together, gathered around a promise that we are waiting for, affirming what is happening among us.
– From the ETERNAL SEASONS by Henri J.M. Nouwen