The Holy Anticipation of advent
People do not like to wait. Things like long lines at the bank, the long line at the grocery store, or waiting for a package — these we could do without. We can’t stand it when we call a company, and they put us on hold. It’s annoying to sit through commercials on the TV or waiting for our food to arrive when the service is slow.
Humanity has made great technological advancements to shrink the burden of waiting. We now have ATMs and self-checkout stations. Mail tracking systems now tell us just where our package is and how long before it arrives. Although we still haven’t figured out how not to be put on hold, we can stream TV shows and movies on demand. No more waiting through commercials. We like our food fast, our internet connections constant and blazing, and I would venture to guess that most of you have a cell phone that can put you in contact with anyone, virtually anywhere in the world almost instantly! We do not like to wait.
No wonder, then, that for many churches the season of Advent has all but disappeared. After all, Advent is a season of waiting. Why would we purposely want to wait for anything? Frankly? Because sometimes waiting is healthy. Life can be too fast-paced, and slowing down can soothe the body and the soul. Advent gives us an opportunity for this. It is a time of reflection designed to begin the church year in the spirit of holy anticipation.
First, in Advent we wait to observe Christmas when we celebrate the first arrival of Jesus. Christmas is holy to us because it was then that God clothed himself in human flesh and was born to the blessed virgin, Mary. God came to earth as one of us, but he didn’t stay in the manger. Jesus grew. He lived a flawless life and kept God’s law perfectly. Then Jesus, as the blemish-free Lamb of God, willingly sacrificed himself on the cross in our place.
That’s what makes Christmas so meaningful. Not the cuteness of the infant Christ. Not the angels’ song nor the shepherds’ devotion. It’s about God keeping his promises to send a savior to the world to rescue us from our sin and save us from eternal death. Jesus did just that. After his death and burial, Christ descended into hell and then rose from the grave in victory over sin and death. Jesus ascended into heaven and promises to return. For those who believe in him, they too will share in this resurrection.
Therefore, Advent is not just about preparing for Christmas, it’s also about waiting in holy anticipation of Christ’s second coming. When he returns at the end of time, he will usher in the resurrection, judge the living and the dead, and establish the new heaven and new earth, our forever home with God.
Advent officially marks the beginning of the church year, and we would do well to embrace it as it simultaneously points us backward to Bethlehem and forward to the Parousia, the second coming of Jesus! May God grant each of you a blessed Advent season and a merry Christmastide.