Advent is here, without fanfare; without bells and whistles. It will go as quietly as it came. If you’re not careful, you’ll miss the opportunity it offers for reflection, returning, and preparation.
Advent means that the Western Christian church and its derivatives have entered a new church year. It’s a reminder that as a Christian, your rhythm centers around Jesus Christ. You start the church year therefore, looking forward to his coming.
In some ways, you’re also looking back as you delve into the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible to see how the promises of God have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. You get a glimpse of the longing and anticipation of the saints of old—longing for repentance, restoration, and God’s reign.You remember the prayers that undergirded this longing. They were longing for a time when human beings recognize God’s values, honor and serve God, live in just relationships with each other, and enjoy peace.
Fast forward and the question as you start Advent today is to what are you looking forward? What are you anticipating? Do the promises revealed and to be revealed in Jesus Christ fill you with longing and hope? Does it matter to you whether or not Jesus came before or will come again? What prayers do you pray?
Building the anticipation of celebrating Jesus’ coming by looking forward in the context of the backward look helps to keep some of the extreme sentimentality at bay. Of course, warm feelings are good. We need some sentimentality. However, when it overtakes a tradition such as Christmas and robs it of its decisive and painful and radical edge, you lose. It means that you’re looking forward to an emotional experience which can be as changeable as the circumstances in your life. On the other hand, appropriating the Messianic expectation past, fulfilled, and yet to be realized helps to give you a present anticipation. At Advent more than any other time it reminds you of the ongoing need for justice, the need to be attentive and mindful of living the values of God’s kingdom/reign. It also fills you with hope and peace as you remember again who God is and rest in that.
Jesus has come. You look forward to celebrating this event at the end of the time between today and December 24. In this Advent period of anticipation you experience again the longing for the intervention of God in human affairs and the need for justice for all. You remember the consequences of disobedience to God. You also remember the faithfulness of God and the fulfillment of God’s promises. Then you remember that Christ will come again. Yes. There will be a change. In the meantime, you prayerfully examine yourself, return to God, consider what Christ’s return means for you, for the world, and how God would have you act. And you let this anticipation help you to focus so that when Advent ends, you will be ready for Christmas.
Pray and experience God more fully.
Photo credti: geralt of pixabay.com