First Week of Advent: What Is Advent?

Today is the first Sunday of Advent.

Last year I tried to draw attention to the season of Advent by linking some things that other bloggers were writing about Advent.  This year I am going to actually step up and try to write some Advent material of my own.  Those of you who are of a liturgical bent, I hope that you will exercise forbearance with me if these aren’t exactly proper Advent devotions; I am an evangelical and have been out of the liturgical stream for a while now, so I may be a bit rusty.  But it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

Now I am sure that those of you who do not come from a liturgical bent are wondering:  What is Advent?  Why on earth should I have any concern for it whatsoever?

That is what I will address today.

Advent is the season before Christmas.  It consists of four Sundays, three full weeks plus whatever fraction of a week is necessary to get to Christmas.  If Christmas falls on a Sunday, then Advent consists of four full weeks.

Advent is a season of darkness.  Not the darkness of Lent, which is the special darkness which results from the shadow of the Cross falling squarely across our path, but rather the general darkness of a world where chaos reigns, a world waiting for the word that is Christ to speak light and order into it.  The darkness of a humanity that is broken and fallen because of sin and a creation that is subjected to bondage, decay, and frustration because of humanity’s sin, waiting for the coming Christ who was promised as early as Genesis 3:15.

Advent is a season of waiting.  For two thousand plus years, the Jewish people waited for their promised Messiah.  For the next four weeks we wait with them, remembering their waiting as we wait to celebrate the coming of Christ on Christmas Day, and waiting (for real) for Christ to come again at the end of the age, as He promised that He would.

In the first century AD, right around the time that Jesus first came on the scene, the Jewish people had waited two thousand plus years for their promised Messiah.  For most of this time they had prophets–people who delivered special messages from God that were relevant to the time they were delivered (and sometimes pertained to people and events very far off in the future).  But it had been over four hundred years since the voice of a prophet had been heard in Judah.  For the most part, people did not really believe that Jesus was coming anytime soon–it was just business, and life, as usual.

Nowadays, it is almost the same situation.  It has been almost two thousand years since Christ ascended to heaven after promising to return at the end of the age, since the Book of Revelation ended with the words “Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20).  Though we acknowledge in theory the possibility of Christ coming back at any time, it is doubtful that any of us really believe it.  I don’t think any of us believes for a second that Jesus will come back before Florida wins its next national championship, before Georgia fires Willie Martinez and a whole bunch of other assistants, before the Cons get back to the playoffs, before I get married, before your teenage daughter learns to drive, before you get that promotion at work, before your parents move to assisted living…you get the idea.  We are all too busy living our lives and we aren’t even able to conceive of what is going on in our lives being interrupted by anything so mundane as the end of the age and the return of Christ.

Advent is a time for us to step out of the rat race that is life in this world.  We will let the world go on with all their running around, all their celebration and stressing out about Christmas, all of their rushing for Christmas presents, all their lights and decorations and Christmas music which have been going since last February.  We will look upon them and enjoy them, to be sure, but we will not allow ourselves to be swept up in all of that commotion.  Instead we will pull away.  We will quiet ourselves and wait.  Wait for Christmas when we celebrate the coming of the promised Savior who has liberated us from our sins and creation from its bondage to sin.  And wait for the promised return of our Savior at the end of the age.