The Season of Advent
Advent is the beginning of the Church calendar year in the western tradition. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve.
The Meaning of Advent
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. Advent is more than simply marking a 2,0000 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. The Scripture readings for Advent will reflect this emphasis on the Second Coming of Christ, and will include themes of accountability for faithfulness at His coming, judgment on sin, and the hope of eternal life.
In this double focus on the past and on the future, Advent symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and the 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 acknowledgement provides a basis for kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live “between 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 of your heart” and “to Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of this world, first expressed by the 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 God who has heard the cries of the oppressed 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 His creation. It is that hope that once anticipated, and anticipates anew, the reign of an Anointed One, a Messiah, who will bring peace and justice and righteousness to the world.