The Invitation of Advent
Growing up, my church, like many others, lit the candles in the Advent wreath on the four Sundays before Christmas, ending with a candlelight Christmas Eve service. It was beautiful and Christmas-y and I had no idea what it meant. But as I’ve learned more and more about this season over the last few years, Advent has taken on a new shape in my life - less about lighting candles, and more about the posture our hearts are to take during this season.
The word advent means “coming” or “arrival” - and the season of Advent is marked by the expectant waiting of the arrival of Christ (both of His birth, and His second coming), culminating on Christmas Day. But we cannot celebrate the arrival of something without acknowledging that it is missing in the first place. We have to live for a while in the expectation and the hope before we can celebrate the joy of the arrival.
We, as a society, aren’t very good at waiting. We live in a culture where we can use our phones to watch any movie we want, talk to any person we know, or have any food we want delivered - all pretty much instantly. We see something we want, we order it, and it is delivered to us in two days. We’ve streamlined every process in the name of efficiency, because we're all far too busy to wait for anything. There is always something more we need to buy, somewhere else we need to be, or something else we need to check off of our to-do list - especially in December.
But Advent turns this way of living on its head, because it is all about waiting. It asks us to slow down, stop altogether, and wait. And then the anticipation starts building, because we are living inside the now, and the not yet. We recognize that God came to Earth and that He is coming to Earth. He has saved us, and He will restore us to Himself. Advent is an invitation - to breathe, to reflect, to hope, to expect, and yes, to wait.
And as we wait, we are reminded of all those that waited on the Lord before us, and those who will wait on the Lord after us, until His return.
We wait with Isaiah, as he prophesies again and again to a broken people about a messiah who will one day come and restore the nation of Israel:
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
We wait with Mary as she is told that the Messiah is coming, and that she gets to be a part of it:
“The angel replied to her: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’” (Luke 1:35)
We wait with the apostles and the early church, who walked with Jesus while he was on Earth, and who eagerly awaited his return:
“Not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the first fruits - we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23)
And we wait with each other - with our families, our churches, and the Church around the world.
The Christmas season isn't easy for a lot of people. It can bring up a lot of difficult feelings and emotions when our lives don't quite look like a Hallmark card. But Advent doesn't require you to be the perfect picture of Christmas joy to participate. Instead, it creates space for longing, for brokenness, and for a heart that desires something more. It allows us to recognize that we live in a broken world, and that we are a broken people. But it also requires us not to dwell in the brokenness. Instead, we dwell in the hope that we have in Christ Jesus. We acknowledge the darkness that we live in, and Advent reminds us that there is a light that has already defeated darkness, and that he will soon return to drive it out entirely.
“Therefore, let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices - and yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
He has come. He is coming.