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.
The Advent season is comprised of three aspects that you will find represented throughout the Advent Project. 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
Secondly, Advent reminds us that this hope of God coming to dwell with his people was met in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Advent therefore prepares us to celebrate nativity of Christ, the coming of God to dwell with his people. Advent is not yet Christmas–it is preparation for that twelve-day feast.
Thirdly, in anticipating Israel’s consolation and the celebration of God-with-us, 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 ransomed captive Israel, the desire of the nations. Although our night is dark, dawn is coming, and Jesus will return to set the world to rights. 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.
Over the next month you’ll find all three elements of Advent present on the Advent project. We’ll be reminded of the prophecies foretelling the Messiah’s coming. We’ll prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas. And we’ll continue to wait, and pray ‘Come Lord Jesus’. This will take a shape in a variety of ways, including:
- Scriptural passages for each day of Advent that you may like to use to supplement your devotional life.
- Remarkable pieces of writing and visual art that will cause you to pause and reflect on this season.
- Prayers, hymns, and songs of praise designed for this season.
- Practical advice on liturgies you could implement in your home life, and craft, and food you could use in your celebration at Christmas.
As embodied creatures, these habits of Advent have a formative role in our lives. Charged by the word and the Spirit in embodying the gospel, these habits and practices form our hearts and minds to desire God’s kingdom. According to Smith again:
“We are called to be a people of memory…citizens of a kingdom that is both older and newer than anything offered by ‘the contemporary.’ The practices of Christian worship over the liturgical year form in us something of an ‘old soul’ that is perpetually pointed to a future, longing for a coming kingdom, and seeking to be such a stretched people in the present who are a foretaste of the coming kingdom.”
May you continue to grow in expectancy, as we await together the coming (again) of the Messiah.
Lord, for Thy coming us prepare;
May we, to meet Thee without fear,
At all times ready be:
In faith and love preserve us sound;
O let us day and night be found
Waiting with joy to welcome Thee.
– The Moravian Church Advent Litany.
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