This past Sunday marked the beginning of Advent. Advent is an ancient church tradition of celebrating the fist arrival of Jesus and the eagerly awaiting his return.
The word, advent, comes from the Latin meaning "coming" or "arrival." As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior on Christmas day, Advent is an opportunity to focus our hearts and minds to anxiously await the day of Christ's return.
Growing up in a Pentecostal tradition, I honestly didn't know much about Advent. I remember some people having Advent calendars and I vaguely recall hearing about it in High Church services, but I had never observed it. Over the last four years, I have learned to sense the importance of the season and it has helped me to better celebrate what Christmas means as a believer.
The early church saw Advent as a season to prepare for the arrival of Christ. We prepare to celebrate his first arrival and prepare our hearts to anticipate his long-awaited return. Once I began to realize this, the season of Christmas has meant so much more to me.
Let's face it, Christmas in America has become much more about consumerism than about the celebration of Christ. We have been so overcome with the need to buy and buy that we can easily lose sight of the reason we, as believers, celebrate Christmas.
Author and Theologian, Robert Webber, likened our current state to that of the Israelites during those many years of silence between the Old and New Testaments. According to Webber, the Israelites became dependent on their own strengths, their own actions. The more they relied on themselves, the less they relied on God.
How familiar is this to us, today?
Without fully being aware, we have removed God from our daily lives. Advent is an opportunity to bring God back into our daily lives. It is a time to sing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and longingly seek his return.
If you are thinking of observing the Advent season, remember that Advent is not Christmas. Advent is an observance leading us to Christmas day. It is not a season of celebration, so much as anticipation. It is about reflecting on our own sins and shortcomings and realizing the need of a Savior. This realization brings us into Christmas day with an entirely new perspective of what Christ's arrival means.
If you are interested in learning more about Advent or the Church Calendar, here are a few resources:
"Seasons: Enter the Story of Jesus," from The Village Church
"The Coming God" from New Life Church | Downtown
"Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year" by Robert E. Webber
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