Today marks the beginning of the church season of Advent. Advent encompasses the four weeks leading up to Christmas, including Sundays. It is meant as a time to look back on the arrival of the promised Messiah (Jesus) on Christmas while at the same time looking forward to the return of that same Messiah (Jesus) at the second coming. Over the next three weeks I’m going to share some thoughts on the Advent season, as well as some suggestions on how to commemorate the season both individually and as a family. Some of these thoughts will be from personal experiences I have had, some will be sharing what we do at the Feller house, and some will be sharing what others have written about the subject.
Today we’ll set the stage for the next two weeks (there will be no rehearsal on December 19, or the fourth Sunday of Advent) by sharing some background and history to the season. The excerpt below is by Dennis Bratcher:
The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent. Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. [Important themes include] accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life.
In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. So, as the church celebrates God’s inbreaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression. It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!
It is that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation. It is that hope that once anticipated, and now anticipates anew, the reign of an Anointed One, a Messiah, who will bring peace and justice and righteousness to the world.
While Landmark does not follow the Church Year and operate on a liturgical cycle, Advent is something that I have personally observed for many, many years. I find it a time to remember on what God has done for me and in me – as well as reflect on what he is doing through me. I have a hope and a faith not only in what Christ accomplished through his birth, life, death, and resurrection, but also a hope and faith in what he will do in the future. I need to constantly ask myself, “Am I doing today everything God has asked of me? Am I surrendering everything I am and have to Him at every moment?” Advent provides a pause from the daily grind and re-focuses me on what is important. Like a daily devotional which serves to re-center oneself on Christ, Advent for me serves as an opportunity to re-center on the truth meaning of Christmas – to get beyond the hustle and bustle of busy roads, buying presents, traveling to see family, and preparing for the holiday.
I challenge you to take some time the next few weeks and reflect and remember what God has done for you – and what type of response that requires of you. Prepare yourself spiritually for Christmas.