Advent is not a Catholic thing or an Orthodox thing. It is not for those godless liberal mainliners or those postmodern liturgy/contemplative freaks. It is not for those overly highbrow, high-church types or for those who would seek to drain every last drop of authentic relationship with God and experience of God out of the Christian life and reduce it to a wasteland of dead, dry, Pharisaical religious formalism and ritualism.
No, Advent is for all of us. Advent is part of that broader, deeper, more ancient stream of Christian belief and practice which keeps us united with those countless generations of believers who have gone before us and served God faithfully long before we ever came on the scene. Observing Advent does not tie us inevitably and inexorably to the errors of Rome or to the unseemly aspects of other Christian traditions. If we choose to ignore Advent, we are doing ourselves a disservice.
Advent is our time to be counter-cultural. All around us the world is busy working itself into a frenzy, trying to keep up with family, gifts, decorations, travel, parties, and all the other demands of the holiday season. This is our time to step back and say to the world, “Thanks, but you can have all of that. Our hope is in Christ, whom we remember and expectantly await during this season. We don’t need to chase after all the things that you drive yourselves crazy chasing after.” We do this by engaging in contemplation, spiritual practice, and simple works of love for our neighbors.
So who needs Advent? Answer: We all do.
Advent is not a time for us to say to the rest of the world, “You need a Savior,” as if we already have a Savior and therefore don’t need one. Instead it is a time for us to say, “We all need a Savior.”
That is the underlying theme of Advent–that we all need a Savior.
Advent is our time to reflect and remember the promises of God to send us a Savior. To reflect upon the darkness and brokenness of our world and the brokenness of ourselves due to sin which is so pervasive in our world. To reflect upon the utter inability of our efforts via religion and keeping up a strong outward impression as holy people and people who have it all together, to do anything about the brokenness of our world and the brokenness inside of us.
The world is not divided into the saved and the unsaved. Instead, the division is between those of us who are honest enough with ourselves to acknowledge the obvious (namely, that we all need a savior), and those who attempt to ignore this–at their own peril. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Who needs Advent? Answer: We all do.