Advent, from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming”, originated somewhere around the 4th century. The practice of Advent has undergone the evolution of many traditions over time, morphing in both practice and intention to something that would be largely unrecognized today from its origins. A quick google search reveals everything from make-up and beer advent calendars, to Marvel heroes and Star Wars wall advent calendars, and nearly everything in between. For most people, it is a countdown device to Christmas, in the heart of a born-again believer, the true liturgical practice of Advent can become a beautiful vessel to direct our thoughts and prayers towards God. The Advent becomes a time when we look, not only to the coming of Christ in human form to become our sacrifice but concurrently towards the time when he comes back at the end (or perhaps rather the beginning) of all things-the second coming.
Words from the Robbie Seay Band song, Lament (We Cannot Wait), came to my mind while preparing for Advent.“We’ve seen mothers bury sons and we’re begging you to come. The broken fill our towns and the hopeless shout aloud…we cannot wait, we cannot wait…”I suppose in my mind, it is a modern, English rendition of what some of the laments in Ancient Judaism would have been like.
They were waiting for the physical arrival of a conquering king; one who would subdue with militaristic conquest. They were not looking for a God who slipped in quietly through the backdoor and not only took on humanity in all of its disgusting degradations but also eschewed any semblance to royalty or pomp or earthly ceremony. He did not violently break the yoke of Roman oppression, but humbly submitted to it, admonishing them to pay taxes and obey their rulers. A Savior who did not live up to their expectations.
It’s easy to be hard on the Jewish people at this time for missing The Epoch of human history, the first Advent of Christ, but how often do we miss the little moments, the small and not inconsequential revelations from a very involved and loving Father? Do we beg God to come and reveal Himself in the daily aspects of our lives, but when it isn’t in accordance with our preconceived ideas, we miss it altogether and even respond in anger? I often think I have a pretty good idea of what God should be doing in my life. I have an expectation and I would take it even further and say I have a demand based on that expectation to the point that I too am disappointed by divine revelation.
This Christmas, during our modern and commercialized celebrations, it is important to focus on Advent. There will be a lot of expectations of things to come and for many, disappointment when what they expected to receive in gifts, or experience in tradition does not square with the carefully crafted storyline in their mind. It is in our nature as fallen people to live this way and to look at life this way. We need to focus with Biblical clarity on what the season is about and take stock of our lives with spiritual reflection.
Remember that in the Advent we have, not only the divine that humbly took human form to bear our sins and to become our propitiation for sin, but we also have the expectation of the same Christ coming with violent conquest, with a shout and militaristic might to subdue everything on earth and to bring the end (or rather the beginning) of all things. As with the first coming of Christ, it may not be the way we have envisioned it in our minds. So be ready and be expectant. A great day is coming.