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What is Advent?

Advent is the first season in the Church Year. It begins on the Sunday four weeks prior to Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. It is the season in which we followers of Jesus begin again our annual journey with Jesus from his birth to his coming again. During Advent we enter into the Story of Israel, identifying with the children of Israel held captive in their own land, longing for a messiah to come and rescue them. It is also a season for us to ready ourselves and wait with eager expectation for the second coming of Christ.

Like Lent, Advent is a fresh start for Christians. It is an opportunity for us to purge ourselves of our false messiahs and to turn our hearts back toward the one true messiah, Jesus Christ. We live in a world of false gods and powerful kings that vie for our allegiance and often succeed at capturing our hearts. Just look at the frenetic and materialistic way our culture celebrates Christmas. If we allow ourselves to simply go with the flow, we’ll be swept into the currents of idolatry and self-worship. We need seasons like Advent in order to renounce and re-order our rhythms into Christ.

Advent is also a time for us to prepare for the arrival of Christ. The word “advent” means, “the arrival.” Jesus came to us once as a baby in Bethlehem. He will come to us again in the end. And he comes to us now by his Spirit, as we seek his presence daily and call upon his name. It is this past, future, and present advent for which we are invited to prepare this season.

So we put ourselves in the countercultural posture of silence and waiting. We refrain from the instantaneous gratification of getting whatever we want when we want. And we allow ourselves to feel our need for a savior. The season of Advent can lead us in this way, and if we choose to follow, our celebration of Christmas will be more joyful and meaningful than ever.

May our practice of Advent draw us deeper into the Story of God. May we faithfully wait and prepare for the coming of Christ, so that we may find greater joy and meaning in our Christmas celebration.

Ryan Flanigan (Liturgical Folk)