As we enter the 3rd week of Advent, Catherine’s words ring true.
Source: Musings on Advent
Advent is one of my favorite seasons in the Christian liturgical year. When I was growing up, my family held daily devotionals gathered around our Advent wreath, reading, singing, and praying together. That time together gave me a quiet center in the busyness leading up to Christmas in which to remember why Christmas was important to my family and me as Christians.
Lately, though, I’ve realized that my Advent devotions are missing something: the recognition that Christ has already come and that he will come again.
I’m not saying that remembering and celebrating wonder, glory, and joy of Jesus’ birth isn’t a good thing. I’m saying that, for Christians, Advent needs to be more than just that celebration, because the coming of the Messiah for which Christians are actually preparing is the second one. So Advent isn’t just a time to remember and prepare for the celebration of Christmas – I think it should also a time to remember that we, like Jews, are a people waiting in hope.
Maybe you’re thinking that this isn’t a new concept, and, if so, you are totally right! But it is a relatively new one to me. Too often, I fall into the trap of believing that there’s nothing else to wait for since God has delivered the world’s salvation, I am too quick to congratulate myself for my efforts to remember the true meaning of Christmas for me as a Christian, and I too easily allow myself to make Advent a shallow experience. And so I fail to give the season of Advent the urgency it deserves from me.
So now I’m trying to figure out what this realization of my flawed perception of Advent means for the current and future Advent seasons. How do I balance the remembrance and celebration of the Messiah’s first coming with the hopeful waiting and preparation for the second? What does it really mean that I am waiting for Christ and how am I failing to live out that waiting? I have absolutely no idea. So this Advent season has been one of much thought and prayer for me.
Most of the churches and Christian communities with whom I’ve celebrated Advent and Christmas tend to focus on Jesus’s first coming, which isn’t a bad thing. Who doesn’t want to spend a few weeks celebrating love, peace, goodwill, and good news of great joy for all people with angels and shepherds and wise men thrown in? I do; I love all of it. In the end, though, I think we’re too aware that Christmas is a done deal for it to seem really relevant. It happened. Unlike Easter, which we relive daily as we continually sin and receive grace, Christmas seems to just end until stores decorate for it the day after Halloween. I think that reinterpreting Advent and Christmas through the lens of Christ’s second coming might be helpful in every pastor’s annual Christmas struggle to make them relevant for their congregation’s lives today. It is for me, at least this year, anyway.
I’m probably late to the party and this has all been said before, but it’s what’s been on my mind lately, and I think it’s worth thinking about. For Christians, I believe the season of Advent can be more, it should be more, and it demands more. I look forward to exploring what that more is.
METRO Center, Tucson, AZ
US-2, Class 2015