Well here we are again, where on earth does the time go? It seems only yesterday that we were celebrating Advent last year.
I find many contradictions in Advent. On the one hand it’s a time of practical preparation for Christmas, on the other hand, in church terms, it’s supposed to be a more solemn occasion where we remember the need we have for change both personally and in the world.
But let’s go back to the beginning. I think that most people believe that Advent starts with the opening of the advent calendars on the first of December and the gift of chocolate associated with most of them. They come in all shapes and sizes now, Bob the builder, Frozen, Father Christmas, Christmas trees and snow scenes decorate the calendars. (if you don’t know what those first two are you are officially grown up). Very few calendars these days have a nativity scene on them which perhaps says a lot about how many of us really understand what Christmas is all about. As the word Advent means ‘coming’ in Latin it seems that most look forward to the coming of Father Christmas and, in some cases, empty bank accounts.
The start of Advent is determined by what day of the week 25 December falls on. This year it was a Sunday so it started on 27 November and runs until 24 December. Maybe there’s a bit of confusion about its origins. What is its true meaning in Christian terms? First of all, Advent focuses on expectation, waiting, anticipation and hope. During Advent, Christians traditionally have looked back to a time when things were not going well for the Jewish people, a time of Exile waiting in Babylon in the 6th Century BC. They longed for something different, to be allowed to go back to Jerusalem and their homes – they cried out to God to be saved. Eventually 60 or 70 years later their prayers were answered by a new Babylonian king called Cyrus who sent them back to rebuild Jerusalem and return to their lives and religion.
For them is was a time of waiting, fasting and praying. The church reflected on this and decided that Advent should also be a time when we remember their struggle. To do so it should be a time of fasting and preparation for the coming of the one who rescues humanity and brings people back from exile into a new relationship with God. Their thinking was that it’s only by reflecting on what has gone before that we can truly understand Christmas. The coming of Emmanuel, ‘God with us’.
It could be said that there are potentially 3 Advents. The first, the coming of Jesus as a baby, which we celebrate at Christmas, secondly, the coming of the Holy Spirit to believers, revealing the things of God and thirdly, the hope that Christ will return to the world. This is the essence of Advent. That Christ has come and will come again.
We are all part of Advent. In theory it should give us a chance to stop and think about our faith and why it’s important that God came to dwell among us in the form of a human infant. We will, as always, remember the story of His coming this Christmas time, and we have the opportunity to celebrate his birth at different services. God coming into plain view and our acceptance of him as ‘God with us’ makes us part of the Adventure of living a life knowing that we have a friend and his name is Jesus.
What does Adventure mean? My dictionary tells me that Advent-ure is an exciting experience, undertaking or enterprise, bold and risky, not always predictable, something coming into view. That just about sums up our Christian journey doesn’t it? Let’s try to hang on to our Advent-urous spirit this Advent and prepare for His coming once again with hope and expectation and attempt not get too bogged down with the other stuff.
I hope to see you at some of our Christmas services and may God Bless you this Advent and Christmas season.
With love for a peaceful and happy Advent and Christmas.