It’s a season of preparation. We’ve spent the last several weeks beginning our preparations for winter. We may have gathered wood for the fireplace, raked the leaves, winterised the car, got winter clothing out of storage, and prepared ourselves to dig in (and out!) for the winter months. This is also the time of the year when we begin to prepare for Christmas. We make a list, either mental or physical, of those to whom we want to give gifts and cards. We go shopping, we decorate our homes, we spend time with family and friends. In fact, we’re so bombarded with Christmas throughout December that by the time Christmas Day arrives we’re ready to be done with the whole thing. We’ve had quite enough of Jingle Bells, Santa Claus, and tinsel for one year, thank you very much.
But this season in the Church is not pre-Christmas. No, this is the season of Advent, and we should not let Christmas encroach upon its own unique character. It is a very short season, just a smidge over three weeks. And what joy we have to welcome its arrival, with the wreath and the growing light and warmth, the many beautiful Advent hymns, the extra services where we lighten the long and dark evenings with the Word and prayer, psalms and songs!
Advent means “Coming” and focuses our attention upon the Coming of the Lord. We have spent a the last four weeks reflecting upon the fact that at the end of history Christ the King will come to rescue the world and establish his rule in the new heavens and earth. Now, we look forward to the coming of the Saviour in Bethlehem, where we meditate on the mystery of the incarnation: God made flesh for us and for salvation. Advent also focuses us on the longing for Christ to come anew into our lives here and now. Advent is a time where the Church prepares itself by meeting the coming of the Lord in his word and in, with and under the bread and the wine in the Lord’s Supper.
Advent is a season of preparation, expectation and hope. The Old Testament readings are all from Isaiah and express ancient Israel’s hope and expectation for coming of the Messiah. They prayed and prepared for the day when the Messiah would come, establish God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven, destroy all the powers of evil, and abolish sin and death. John the Baptist figures large, with his constant warning and challenge to us not to settle down into the ways of this world, thus failing to be prepared to welcome God’s surprise in-breaking, the joyous arrival of His Kingdom in the flesh of His Son.
This continued coming of the Lord among his people here and now is important. As we go about our busy lives in preparation for the holidays, we have to ask ourselves, “Where is God in all this?” The danger we face is in the tendency to be indifferent to the presence of God. When we think we can do things on our own, we act as though we have little or no need for God. When we fail to live as though Christ himself is present among us during worship, we can easily be lulled to spiritual sleep. Advent exhorts us to be prepared and vigilant so that when Christ comes again to set the world right again, and establish his reign on earth as in heaven, we may be included. Advent reminds us that this expected coming of the Kingdom of God has already begun in the babe in Bethlehem, and continues through Word and Sacrament today. May you have a blessed Adventide!
Rev. Matthew Fenn