The word ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin word ‘Coming’ and is used as a term to signal the coming of Christ celebrated in the month running up to Christmas day. It’s unknown when this period of preparation for Christmas began to be recognised, but it was certainly in existence by 480AD, and by 1153AD began to be recognised as a time to anticipate the ‘three comings of Christ’, “in flesh in Bethlehem, in our hearts daily, and in glory at the end of time.”
It’s a celebration that some of us from more traditional backgrounds will be very familiar with, whilst those of us from more evangelical roots may find strange and quite foreign. In my build up to the Christmas period this year Advent has very much been on my mind, mainly because I have a desire to do Christmas differently. So often our Christmas is overshadowed by busy-ness and materialism, what is meant to be a focus of our attention and hearts upon Christ becomes the busiest time of year where we barely get chance to think about anything other than presents, cooking, shopping and seeing people. Now I’m not being a grump, honest! I love Christmas, but perhaps Advent may give us a key to a more balanced approach to Christmas, and help us create space and time to make the most of this fantastic celebration each year.
Whilst preparing for our ‘Advent Launch Night’ on Friday 30th November, I came across three statements that began to help me understand Advent and its purpose.
Advent is about; expectant waiting, hopeful anticipation and joyful preparation.
Waiting is not a passive word. It’s not about sitting round and doing nothing. Remember the story of the virgins and their lamps? (Matthew 25) They were found sleeping when the bridegroom came. Just like them we too await expectantly for Christ.
Advent is a period where we celebrate that Christ did come! For thousands of years God had promised a Messiah, through good times and bad, through war, suffering, slavery, rebellion and exile the Israelites had awaited their saviour. Then, all of sudden He came! In a way no-one expected, to bring liberty and freedom in a way beyond anyone’s expectations. In the same way we too await the coming Messiah, both in the present and at the end of time. We need Him to move in our day, to reach the community around us, for His Kingdom to break in, for people to be saved and come to faith. We await Him to arrive daily in our hearts, to break the chains of sin and rebellion and bring us into the power of freedom in Christ. And whilst we do this we also await the second coming of Christ, when the fullness of the promise of the Kingdom shall be realised. Where war will cease, every tear will be wiped away and a Kingdom of peace, justice and righteousness will reign forever.
This is expectant waiting. This Advent may we take the opportunity to wait expectantly for the coming Christ. For He has indeed come, we need Him each and every day in our lives, and He will come in the end to fulfil all He has promised.
Don’t forget our Advent Launch Night on Friday 30th November, 7.00pm at ACC. This will be a great opportunity to focus our attention upon Christ and begin our build up to Christmas with a right heart and focused mind.