Advent brings a new year of grace with its promise of a new beginning for each of us. May we enter into this privileged season that the Church calls a time of "devout and expectant delight." (Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year)
In my early experience of religious life it was beat into us that Advent wasn't a penitential season. Like a lot of what I was taught early on, this needs more nuance. Certainly Advent is a time for metanoia, for turning our attention toward the One who is our deepest delight, to a stance of devout expectation for the God who is arriving fresh in each moment. As John the Baptist will cry out on the Second Sunday of Advent, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
At hand. The Kingdom is perpetually about to be. This is the patient and humble God who awaits the friendship of those who will surrender to his kingship in their hearts in whatever the next moment is for them, whether it be prayer or work or rest, or especially a moment of encounter with another soul.
This attentiveness to the God who is arriving, this adventitious God, is the spiritual work of those of us who live in this graced and blessed time in between the first and second comings of Christ. Advent invites us to a contemplative attentiveness in this in-betweenness, as we look back with joy to the humility of the incarnation and forward to the glory of the final fulfillment of everything in Christ.
This attentiveness in quiet prayer is what makes a space for God to be born anew in our own hearts. And if our hearts are sometimes dark or cold, let us rejoice all the more, for that is just the sort of place God wills to be born.
As one of my Capuchin formation directors told us at the beginning of Advent, "Let us begin again for the first time."