What’s the Rush?
As I write this, Thanksgiving is ten days away and I am still thinking about what happened to October! Where has the time gone? I am trying to get caught-up from September and I just found some paperwork from last March. The pile of papers gets larger and larger, the unfinished work goes undone and I feel that each day becomes shorter and shorter. Even the nights seem to be shorter, I struggle to stay awake to see the late news but still morning comes too soon. I do not have enough time anymore to accomplish half of what I did when life was simpler and I was younger. I wished my life away then and that wish continues to go on-and-on. Now I wish it would slowdown or maybe even pause for a moment.
So, next Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent and Friday will be Christmas and the day after will be another year—2017. What’s the rush? Why must we speed through these most joyous seasons for us Christians—Advent and Christmas? Why do we condense these two seasons into one day?
I ask you to pause and reflect upon Advent; let there be anticipation for the arrival of the Christ Child, the Babe of Bethlehem, Emanuel. The celebration of Jesus birth was not very old when the Church felt the need for a period of preparation; Advent dates back to the end of the fourth century. Not much has changed! At first, the season of Advent was 40 days long, representing the 4000 years of waiting for the promised Messiah by the Hebrew people but later became four Sundays beginning on the Sunday nearest November 30, St. Andrew’s Day.
Advent is derived from the Latin adventus, which means “coming” or “an arrival” and refers to the ancient promise of the Lord’s coming, as recorded in the Old Testament. We Christians look toward the Lord’s arrival as the season proclaims the coming of Christ—whose birth we prepare to celebrate once again, who comes continually in Word, Sacrament and Spirit, and whose return in final victory we anticipate.
Advent should not be confused with Christmas. Advent is the period in which we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus, when we ask God to stir up our hearts in preparation of the fulfillment of His promise—the coming of a Son called the Prince of Peace, a great light for those who walk in darkness. The mood of Advent is one of longing for deliverance from oppression coupled with anticipation of the coming Messiah/Christ/King/Bridegroom. It is a season of prayer with its own anticipatory spirit characterized in liturgy, hymnody, Scripture and preaching.
Our longing is at the center of the waiting. As we grow in years the longing deepens and broadens, possessing no longer satisfies our desire for something more. As we mature in the Christian life, we long for justice and righteousness, a more meaningful future, fulfillment and peace. And even to these longings Advent says wait; not now, but hope for that which you may never see, something that is promised.
The color for Advent is blue, the depths of the sea and the heights of the sky, symbolic of hope and watchfulness, innocence and devotion. As we watch for the coming of our Lord, Christ Jesus, we peer into the darkness searching for the in-breaking of the light of the world, we long for that light. This longing is normal in the short, often bleak, daylight of winter with its long nights. The return of the sun, the source of life, is longed for because nothing green grows without it.
We light the Advent candles as we longingly wait for Christ Jesus, the light of all life, to return. For His true light makes all visible, fulfills all longings and makes all whole — He brings everything to completion. Moreover, it is for this that we wait, God-with-us.
The atmosphere of Advent stirs the imagination of the faithful as we anticipate the celebration of Christmas. The imagery in scripture gives depth to the spirit of the season of Advent. The King leaves His heavenly home to come to earth. Therefore, at the beginning of Advent we prepare our hearts to welcome in heaven’s royalty. Then at Christmas, the King comes anew, not in the flesh, but with renewed appeal to all humanity to accept Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Let us focus upon Christ this Advent season. Let us downplay the commercialism and consumerism and return to the traditional observances, and let the significance of the Incarnation illumine Christmas once again.
May you be deeply blessed this Advent and Christmas season,