Why do we celebrate Advent?


advent2This past Sunday marked the beginning of what Christians call the season of Advent. The word originally meant “coming” and it has a deep and rich tradition in the church where His people anticipate the coming of Messiah for a four Sunday period prior to Christmas. Of course, it’s not mandatory for Christians to observe Advent but over the years it has slipped into a bit of obscurity. Why would we even give time to observing Advent? Here are a few reasons…

First, I think there is something about anticipation that connects with all of us. Some of us remember that great Heinz ketchup commercial with Carly Simon singing “Anticipation” as we watched and waited for the ketchup to finally come out of the bottle. Christmas is this season where early in our lives we learned how to anticipate that glorious morning spent unwrapping every present under the tree at warp speed, even those presents that didn’t have our name on it!

We tend to forget that the Jews anticipated a coming Messiah that had been spoken of by their own prophets. Advent is to think and feel what it would be like for a Jew to “long for” what their Scriptures had pointed… Messiah. And when we do this we share in their longing for what we as well need so badly… rescue… salvation…

We know how the Son invaded our world and we celebrate this every year. Advent, as the time of waiting for the coming of Messiah, invites us into the story every year as we constantly remember how grateful we are for good news and what is cost the Father to deal with our sin in offering us an eternal kind of life. Advent then is not an old, archaic thing of the past. Rather, it’s the yearly rhythmic remembrance of how radical the gospel is and how the story of our lives in placed in the greater story of His coming.

But second, advent was not only to remind people of His first coming but also His second coming. If the word means “coming” then Advent is the time of year that we intentionally remember not only of the appearance of Messiah in a field in Bethlehem but His return. The first time He came it was a babe in a manger. The second time He comes it will be as the conquering King. While we do know the end of the first act, there is another part of the drama that is to be unfolded in the future! Jesus says twice in Revelation 22, “Behold I am coming quickly…” Advent is the time of year we remember that our Savior is returning to awaken us from the temptation to sleepwalk through the Christian life.

Our experience with Advent year after year is to let the word “coming” sink deeply into our hearts, much like the anticipation that children feel during this time of year. As we move from Thanksgiving to Christmas there is a heightened sense that the arrival of “that day” represents something almost magical, something magnificent is coming! This is what the Jews waited for! This Advent season, let the anticipation of Messiah fill your heart so that when the season is over, you too will rejoice as the angels did that night in Bethlehem!

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