Advent is that crazy church word we use in December and then place back in the attic with all of the wreaths and Chrismons. However, the word literally means “coming toward.”
Technically, Advent is a season of the church liturgical year. It is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year in Western Christianity and is part of the wider Christmas and holiday season.
According to the Rev. Dr. Philip H. Pfatteicher, who was a professor of religion and campus pastor at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania for 30 years and wrote the book Journey Into the Heart of God: Living the Liturgical Year. This book examines the history and evolution of the church year, or liturgical calendar, and reflects on the cycle of seasons in the Christian tradition that begins with Advent and culminates with Easter:
The term advent was adopted from Latin adventus "coming; arrival", translating Greek parousia. In the New Testament, this is the term used for the Second Coming of Christ. Thus, the season of Advent in the Christian calendar anticipates the "coming of Christ" from three different perspectives: the physical nativity in Bethlehem, the reception of Christ in the heart of the believer, and the eschatological Second Coming.
Every time I think of the way Advent calls us to prepare for the coming of Christ into our world and our lives, I am reminded of the late Clarence Jordan's classic work The Cotton Patch Gospel. That work, which places Jesus' ministry in the late 1930's in Georgia, has John the Baptizer using the following words in his preaching: “You must reshape your lives because God’s new order of the Spirit is confronting you."
If you are moving forward as Advent claims, then you are inevitably heading towards a confrontation.
And the struggle of that happens to me each Advent. I am confronted by a God who comes as a babe born in a manger and then from those humble beginnings goes on to change the world.
But in this changing of the world, God through Christ confronts us—as we are asked to be partners in that mission.
And that is where I am challenged at Advent. The question is how am I being confronted to reshape my life to help bring about the kingdom here on earth just as it is in heaven.
Because that is what advent is all about. It is about confronting the darkness and replacing it with light.
We are reminded of that with each candle we light in the Advent wreath. That Christ is coming and with the Holy Child’s birth we now can fully experience hope, peace, joy and love.
So, a confrontation is coming and the question is how will you and I respond? Will we choose to walk in faith or in fear? Will we each do those things that allow us to serve Christ in our daily tasks and to live a holy and joy-filled life? Will we come towards a life that remembers that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God? Do we really want Christmas? That is, do we want to let Jesus come into our lives, or do we just want the tinsel and trimming and decorations that we can quickly put away on the 26th? It is a question that confronts us, and we must answer not only in word but more importantly in our actions.
I pray we will each live as people who have been confronted by the Lord’s coming and choose to celebrate the good news and share it with the world.
Alleluia Amen and Merry Christmas.