O Come, O Come: The Meaning of Advent

advent wreath photoPhoto by goforchris

The four Sundays preceding Christmas are what is known on the Christian calendar as Advent, a term that derives from the Latin, adventus, which means, coming. It’s the time of year that we focus ourselves on various aspects of Christ’s comings, both his First Coming, which we celebrate at Christmas, and his Second Coming, which we anticipate and hope for with deep yearning.

We do this at Easter too. Easter Sunday we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, his coming back from the dead; we celebrate his coming back. In remembering, we also anticipate. This is the direction in which we point our hope. Advent is crucial the way of a Christian’s life.

For those of you in nonliturgical churches that do not practice Advent, or for those of you in nonliturgical churches that are dipping their toes into the Church Calendar, below are a few (short!) articles on Advent: what it is and why it’s important.

1) Advent: A Season of Waiting for the Coming of Christ

I confess I was surprised to find this piece from The Huffington Post. I start with it for the excerpt I include below; however, the piece also includes a spectacular slideshow of Advent’s Darkness to Light Procession, a visual discourse on the question, What is Advent? So be sure to check it out.

The themes of the Advent season are Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Lighting of candles, especially the circular Advent wreath with five candles is an important tradition of the Advent season. Each Sunday of Advent, one of four candles is lit — with the final candle, the Christ Candle, being lit on Christmas Eve.

2) Advent – Holy Dissatisfaction and Hopeful Anticipation

Blogger Joel Willitts constructs a helpful metaphor for Advent by recalling the intense dissatisfaction and anticipation that accompanied the waiting period of his 8-month engagement. Willitts’s reflections are extremely apt for helping us understand Advent (both the Advent of Christmas and the everyday advent of a believer’s hope) as this is essentially the metaphor Scripture uses. Dissatisfaction and anticipation. When we discuss Advent, particularly as Advent is “in vogue” (for all the right reasons) among otherwise non-liturgical Evangelicals, we tend to only regard Advent as a time of anticipation. But as Willitts notes, it is more than that:Advent’s two heart postures, holy dissatisfaction and hopeful anticipation, also have two corresponding practices repentance and meditation. 

Advent’s Holy Discontent – Repentance of

  • Apathy
  • Indifference
  • Distance
  • Sin 

Advent’s Hopeful Anticipation – Meditation on

  • Jesus’ Second Coming
  • Jesus’ birth
  • Jesus in our lives 

3) The Essence of Advent

This piece provides a super-brief historical survey of Advent and then goes on to discuss Advent’s significance and place in our (daily) Christian lives. The following resonated with me in particular:

Advent is intended to be a season of fasting and reflection, as well as anticipation. Reflecting on the violence and evil in the world leads us to cry out to God to make things right—to put death’s dark shadows to flight. Our exile in the present makes us look forward to our future Exodus. And our sinfulness and need for grace lead us to pray for the Holy Spirit to renew his work in conforming us into the image of Christ.