What is Advent?
From The Messiah Messenger Advent Edition 2015
When it comes to Advent and Christmas in the world around us, things are somewhat skewed. Advent is essentially non-existent and Christmas now begins sometime in the afternoon on October 31st. There are a number of reasons why this is so, two of the biggest ones being the consumerist culture that we live in and our ever-increasing need for instant gratification. Unfortunately because of the world’s influence on the Church this mentality has tended to permeate the Church and to cause Christians to lose focus on the Advent season at the expense of gearing up for Christmas early. Thus we see many churches today singing Christmas hymns during the season of Advent or preaching sermon series on Christmas in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent, which is such an important season on the Liturgical calendar gets buried and/or pushed to the side.
So, what is Advent and why is it so important? Is it just Christmas-lite or is there a deeper meaning to it? It of course bears saying at this point that Advent is not Christmas-lite. The Christmas season on the Liturgical Calendar does not begin until December 24th and then it runs for 12 days up to January 6th (Remember “The 12 Days of Christmas?”). Advent is a season of expectation and hope that drives to Christmas but it is not Christmas. Advent is a time of looking forward to God’s fulfillment of His promises in Jesus Christ; it is a season of looking forward to the coming of Jesus. The word “Advent” itself means “a coming.” Now, we do this in two ways. One, we join with our faithful ancestors of the past and look forward to the joyful promise of the First Coming of the Messiah, the Christ, the fulfillment of which takes place on Christmas Day. This is why we hear about the ministry of John the Baptist so heavily during the season of Advent and why our Old Testament lessons tend to be the clearer prophecies of Christ. But during Advent we also join with all faithful believers across time to look with expectation and hope to the Second Coming of Christ as well. So, during Advent we also have readings that proclaim Christ’s second coming in the mix as well.
That said, this is a joyful season of preparation. Our Lord has fulfilled the promises of God and come in the first instance to be born among us that He might die and rise for us. But we also look with great joy and hope and expectation to the fact that He is coming again when the Father wills for Him to come again. In both cases, though, this means that there is some patience to be had. Much like you can’t open your Christmas presents until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, so we must wait to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child on Christmas Eve. And we must wait with patience for our Lord’s Second Coming; He will come when it is right for Him to come and not a moment sooner.
So think on this as you celebrate Advent this year. Let the season be what it is, namely a time for preparing to hear again the Good News of Christmas Day and also a time of preparing to hear the Good News that He has re- turned. And then let your joy and praises ring out on Christmas Eve when we all gather to praise our Savior who is born for us.
Your spiritual father in Christ,