The word Advent means coming or arrival. It is the period leading up to Christmas, and the start of the Christian calendar. It is a period of waiting, waiting with Israel for the Messiah, reading the prophecies of his arrival, waiting with the world for Messiah’s return, watching and praying.
Advent is not a frantic countdown to the stuffed stomachs and broken toys of Christmas. Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter; it is a time of both patient waiting and discontented longing that fuels our hope in the coming Kingdom of God. Amidst this season where our time feels so scarce, dashing from party to party and present shopping, Advent teaches us to watch, to wait, and to hope for the appearance of the one who makes all things new.
Advent helps us wait for God
Firstly, Israel’s longing for an end to her exile. In Advent we join with Israel awaiting the deliverance from their sins, release from their exile, and the return of their King. We join with Israel’s prophets that proclaim this good news, and in doing so, we come to see that the story of Israel’s exile from God is part of the story of the world’s alienation from God.
“During Advent each year, the Christian year teaches us to once again become Israel, recognizing our sin and need, that waiting, longing, hoping, calling, praying for the coming of the Messiah, the advent of justice, and the in-breaking of shalom. We go through the ritual of desiring the kingdom – a kind of holy impatience – by re-enacting Israel’s longing for the coming of the King. We are called to be a people of expectancy – looking for the coming (again) of the Messiah.” – James K.A. Smith
Advent offers hope
Secondly, Advent reminds us that this hope of God coming to dwell with his people was met in the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent therefore prepares us to celebrate Christ’s arrival, the coming of God to dwell with his people.
Advent reminds us Jesus will return
Thirdly, during advent we are reminded once more that we continue to inhabit a world scarred by sin and evil. Advent trains us in these last days to hope in the one who came to save. Although our night is dark, dawn is coming, and Jesus will return to set the world right. Advent directs our hearts to long for this, to believe that the Kingdom of God is at hand, and so repent and believe the gospel.