As we kick off sharing the next 4 weeks together, I think it’s only fitting that we start by asking and answering a simple question: What is Advent?
I grew up in a faith tradition that wasn’t particularly “liturgical”, meaning we didn’t follow a set calendar in Church for readings or ceremonies. We did Communion every 5th Sunday and, well, that was about it. I remember a few years when someone in the Church would do an advent wreath and candles, but that seemed to be the exception. I think that, without being spoken, the idea was that those sorts of traditions would be too stuffy, too formal for us.
But as I got older, and my love for Church History grew, I began to learn that Advent was more than 4 candles and a calendar that my mom would buy. It was more than counting down the shopping days left before Santa showed up.
Advent comes to us from the Latin word Adventus, and it means coming. It refers to the coming of Christ. While the word itself appears nowhere in the Bible, the theme most certainly does. Throughout the Old Testament, we have prophecies concerning a coming Messiah. We also see in the writings of the prophets, a longing for Messiah to make all things right, to restore God’s people, and to see a renewal of the covenant with God. When we look at the history of the Jewish people, especially the last part of the Old Testament period, and in the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments, we see that this waiting moves from just a desire to expectant waiting.
So why should we, who live after Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus, commemorate Advent? I think there at several reasons.
First, it helps us to remember that God has a plan and a timeline that doesn’t often coincide with our own. In Galatians 4:4, Paul writes, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law,” Christ came at the precise moment the Father knew to be best. God’s time and God’s plan aren’t ours. But we must learn to wait for His perfect timing.
Secondly, Advent helps us to remember the mystery, the wonder, of the Incarnation. Incarnation simply means that Jesus became a man and lived among us. I love Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message words John 1:14—The Word [Jesus] became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son. Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. I think it would behoove us to take time, more than just a few weeks each year, to meditate on the truth that God loved us so much that Jesus didn’t just show up, he came and lived among us, experiencing life with us.
Thirdly, Advent reminds us of our mission to prepare the way for the Messiah. According to Old Testament prophecies, before the Messiah would appear, there would be individuals preparing people for his coming. John the Baptist was one, the “voice crying in the wilderness”. John 1:6-8 says this about him, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light [Jesus], that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” Now, you don’t have to be Baptist to be like John. No, you see, each of us has been tasked with helping to prepare the way for others to come to Jesus. Each of us has a role to play in seeing others place their faith in Jesus. It is during Advent that we remember we have a part in the Christmas Story as well.
And finally, Fourth, during Advent, we are reminded that Jesus is coming again. We call this the Second Advent. This is where we share in the eager expectation of the Old Testament saints of God restoring, no, surpassing, Eden and that we might dwell with our Lord. Sadly, when we think about the Second Coming of Christ today, we’ve often focused on “end times” prophecies and blood moons and hogwash like that. In fact, the “last days” began over 2,000 years ago. There is nothing to prevent Jesus from coming back at any moment. Instead of fixating on days or silly conspiracy theories or secret raptures, we can rejoice that in the end, God wins, and because of Christ, we are victors over death, hell, and separation from our heavenly Father.
So maybe Advent isn’t your thing. Hey, that’s fine. I think I’ve given you four pretty good reasons to check it out. I hope you’ll consider going on this journey with us, as we go into the Christmas season and even beyond it a little bit. Together we remember that Christ has come, Christ has risen, and Christ is coming again.