“Advent”, over the past several years the word has become almost synonymous with Christmas. Best recognized among Christians by the lighting of candles (three purple and one pink), the Holiday practice is meant to symbolize the anticipation of each Sunday leading up to Christmas. Not surprisingly, a tradition about waiting sometimes has trouble fitting into our high-octane society. By the time Halloween has dimmed its lights most stores are set and ready with Christmas decorations, and with Thanksgiving absorbed into the insanity of Black Friday, Advent couldn’t look more out of place. So how do we, as Christians, help Advent stay relevant?
The Answer: by remembering that the meaning is in the waiting. Timothy Paul Jones of The Gospel Coalition believes that Advent helps us look forward to Christ’s triumphant return. In a recent article he states,
“In Advent, Christians embrace the groaning and recognize it not as hopeless whimpering over the paucity of the present moment but as expectant yearning for a divine banquet that Jesus is preparing for us even now. In Advent, the church admits, as poet R.S. Thomas has put it, that ‘the meaning is in the waiting.’ And what we await is a final Advent that is yet to come. Just as the ancient Israelites waited for the coming of the Messiah in flesh, we await the consummation of the good news through the Messiah’s return in glory. In Advent, believers confess that the infant who drew his first ragged breath between a virgin’s knees has yet to speak his final word.”
What many of us fail to recognize in the chaos of the Christmas season, is that we are in the midst of God’s great story. We are not merely celebrating the birth of Christ, we are celebrating his life, death, and victory over sin. It is a tale that stretches back all the way to the Garden of Eden, with an ending that is still being written. These ideas were echoed by Breaking Point writer, John Stonestreet, in a recent entry,
“Another thing that has really helped me is studying just how big this Christmas story is. Behind all the gifts, the carols, nativity scenes, and dinner parties is a narrative that spans from the creation of the heavens and earth to the re-creation of the heavens and earth. Here’s what I mean: All those characters we remember in the Christmas story—Mary, the Wise Men, Shepherds, Angels, Joseph, Zachariah, Elizabeth, Simeon—they all have something in common. They identified what was happening to them as being firmly rooted in the promises of God—promises to His people detailed in the Old Testament. Thinking like they did—that behind all of the noise and chaos of this time of year is a story being unfolded—has changed almost everything about how I approach Advent and Christmas.”
This Christmas, as families everywhere gather together, take some time to meditate on the purpose of Advent. In Latin, the word translates simply as “coming”, a means of looking forward toward Christ as well as looking back on his life. We can only hope He will be coming soon.
*This Blog Published 12/2/2013
**Ryan Duncan is the Culture Editor for Crosswalk.com