Yesterday was the first Sunday in the Advent season. The next four weeks are an important part of the liturgical calendar. That “church” calendar includes feast days, spiritual celebrations and some denominational specifics like themes and colors.
My particular spiritual heritage hasn’t paid much attention to things like an Advent calendar. Probably the closest I have ever come to such a tradition might be eating my way through those ones that offer up a piece of chocolate as you open the “door” to each day in December.
But paying attention to Advent has some merit and I am suggesting that you and I consider it this week.
The Advent calendar apparently started way back in the 6th century as a way to prepare one’s self for baptism. The early church set aside 40 days before baptisms as a season of reflection that included fasting and repentance. By the 19th century, the Lutherans for example had a solid tradition of celebrating this period of anticipation in their spiritual routines.
The word “advent” actually means “arrival” or “coming.” It would be the Greek equivalent of “Parousia.” At its heart, this season is meant to focus our hearts on what’s coming next.
But for the believer, we already know that Christ has come in the flesh. He was born as a babe in Bethlehem, lived a sinless life and died a substitutionary death on our behalf. These are facts that we understand and cling to.
So, if looking forward is the thrust of Advent, it may be a bit more challenging for a Christian who is already very familiar with the truth of His first coming.
But therein lies the wonder of this season. Rather than just focus on what has already occurred, we can lift of our eyes a bit and focus on what is still to come. This liturgical season has a rich reservoir from which to drink.
For the next four weeks, we can commit ourselves to a serious consideration of the Second Coming of Christ. We can read, study and memorize passages like I Thess. 4:16-17, Heb. 9:28, Rev. 1:7, Matt. 24, and John 14:1-3. That effort will no doubt cause us to long for His return and to expectantly wait for Him.
That waiting can be instructive too. This might be a season of developing our capacity to be patient. Perhaps we can clear out some space in our minds and hearts and purpose to pause for all the right reasons.
Advent isn’t just about the coming baby. It is about the coming King. And we all need to get ready!