November 30, 2018
This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, a four-week season of joyfully anticipating Christmas.
I want to unpack, a bit, each of those three words, in reverse order:
Advent is meant to prepare us for Christmas. We start each Sunday of Advent by lighting a new candle of the Advent Wreath and singing a verse from "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Emmanuel (or Immanuel) means "God-with-us."Contrary to some of the lessons assigned in modern lectionaries, Christmas, as presented in the Bible, has nothing to do with the "second coming." Rather, the Bible stories leading up to that first Christmas -- the stories we hear of angelic visitations, miraculous pregnancies, and Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem -- are about the "first coming" of God among us in human form that first Christmas.
Advent is a season of anticipating Christmas. Advent wreaths, Advent calendars, and other advent resources help us count down the days to Christmas, building anticipation.Anticipation is different than celebration. We anticipate the birth of a child (or the arrival of a loved one from far away, or getting good grades or a promotion, or moving into a new home, etc.). But we don't celebrate good news events until they actually happen. Contrary to how our culture jumps the gun on Christmas celebrations, Christians who observe Advent spend this time of year anticipating...waiting...counting down.
Advent is a season to joyfully anticipate Christmas. Advent is a season of anticipating the birth of Jesus. Remember how the news of this birth -- this world-history-changing-event! -- was first announced, and to whom: an angel of the Lord told ordinary working-class shepherds "I bring you good news of great joy."
Contrary to how some churches observe it, Advent is not Lent. Advent is not a celebratory season, but that doesn't mean it is in any way supposed to be a penitential, sad, or somber season. Advent is a season of joyful anticipation.
See you this Sunday, as we start joyfully...anticipating...Christmas!