Do you see the books and wonder “why Advent?” Why not just call it “preparing our hearts for Christmas? I used to wonder the exact same thing and here is what I’ve learned.
Advent is Waiting
Before the debate “do you decorate after Halloween or after Thanksgiving”? There was a different kind of tradition. People didn’t start celebrating Christmas until Christmas Day!!! The 12 days of Christmas kicks off on Christmas day and then unfolds in gift-giving and feasting for 12 days after.
The weeks leading up to Advent are a slow burn of longing. The world holding its breath. There are a whole set of forgotten traditions for this time.
Advent is Looking Back
From the Garden of Eden until Jesus was born the whole earth was in a holding pattern of anticipation. Every story of the Old Testament was pointing to the one who was coming. The lives of men and women of faith were pictures of who he would be. The prophecies were reminders that he would come.
Every baby boy born would be held with the question, “Is he the one?” But the first generation died, then the second, people forgot God, and returned to him, then forgot and returned again. Kingdoms and dynasties rose and fell and still the Promised One to break the curse had not come.
The waiting season of Advent reminds us of the brokenness of the world before the Healer was born. Advent devotionals give us this by guiding our reading to passages from the prophets reminding people that just because God hadn’t come, didn’t mean he wouldn’t come. He was coming to make everything new!
Until the Son of God Appears
Then when least expected, and a place unexpected an angel appeared to an unmarried girl telling her she would have the Messiah. He lived a perfect life, died a perfect death, and because of that gift we have salvation and are provided a way to live in unbroken fellowship with God for eternity.
Advent is Looking Forward
But we are still waiting. We live in the “already but not yet”! Many of us even this Christmas are experiencing loss. A relationship shattered, a loved one passed, or a friend who is sick. Our hearts cry “How long oh Lord! These things should never be.” We were made to live in perfect unity with God and those we love in the garden of Eden. Because of sin, the beauty of perfect fellowship was shattered. In that shattering came pain, sickness, broken relationships, and death.
Advent reminds us that the pain of today is not for eternity. Because of the gift of Jesus we have hope that one day everything will be restored. Not just to what it was in the garden of Eden, but even greater.
And so we sing…
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
And on Christmas, during the darkest time of the year, we break into celebration. We have faith that what we see isn’t all that there is. The Messiah has come to bring hope. And the Messiah will come again to make all things new! (Here are 7 beautiful ideas for making this Advent special).