an·tic·i·pa·tion [an-tis-uh-pey-shuhn] 1. the act of anticipating or the state of being anticipated. 2. realization in advance; foretaste. 3. expectation or hope. 4. previous notion; slight previous impression. 5. intuition, foreknowledge, or prescience.
For those who celebrate Western Christian traditions, the season of Advent—the liturgical New Year—began this year on November 28th. The Eastern Christian, or Orthodox, traditions celebrate the Nativity Fast at this time of year—a slightly longer period of fasting and penance in preparation for Christ’s Nativity on December 25th. Christmas—the celebration of Christ’s birth, God become flesh, and salvation made manifest in humility and generosity rather than might and power. So, each tradition in their own way experiences this season as one of anticipation; but anticipation of what, exactly? It seems that every Advent season I hear people describing their desire to “slow down” and “really remember what this holiday is about.” What a great idea! That’s where the last 4 definitions of “anticipation” come in handy. But Advent and the Nativity Fast are not just seasons intended to prepare people for celebrating the memory of the gift of God with us, Emmanuel. They are also intended as seasons of invitation for us to live in expectation of the reality that “Christ will come again.” We have been given a foretaste, we have a certain hope, past events echo the future, and by grace we have been given foreknowledge that Christ will come again. So, what on earth does that have to do with Art and Literature? Tonight I suggest only this: an invitation for us to keep our eyes open, and hearts attentive—to the popular movie that unwittingly embodies hope; to the Nativity stories AND to the stories of Christ’s return; to our internal attitude toward neighbors, who bear the image of God whether they profess to do so or not, as they stand right there in line with us at the theatre or symphony concert, or happen to be the one taking our ticket at the box office. It is an invitation to be attentive as we give gifts intended to be a symbol of the gift given to us in Christ. Eyes open, hearts attentive, so that when it comes time for us to recognize the God who might present himself in unexpected ways, we do, in fact, recognize him. In stories, in images, even if those words and images don’t clearly reference Jesus. God incarnate, the Word enfleshed in our material, concrete, experienced world. Not hidden, though sometimes hard to find, and not capricious, though often astonishing. May we cultivate our ability to anticipate with open eyes and attentive hearts. majestic, mysterious, infinite speaker of stars and unimaginable dreams today invade: frenzy with hush exhaustion with generosity and supplant anxiety with melodies renewed as we wait in joyful hope for your return.
In addition to having work previously in Ruminate, Aaron Brown has been published in Transition, Tupelo Quarterly, Portland Review, and Cimarron Review, among others. He is the author of Winnower (Wipf & Stock, 2013) and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. An MFA graduate from the University of Maryland, Aaron lives with his wife Melinda in Sterling, Kansas, where he is an assistant professor of writing and editing at Sterling College.
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