Readers of this blog will likely already know of my love of Advent and all good things that lead to Christmas. (For reminders, please see Christmas Traditions, Christmas Literacy and Stories are Gifts.) I have taught my youth group the Advent Cheer, banned together with my roommate in support of lighting our own Advent wreath, and bemoaned to anyone who would listen the passing of the Advent workshop (now nearly two decades ago). This year, I found myself volunteering to speak at church and convince my generation that paying attention to the church calendar may just be the best thing they do this Christmas. This is a more-articulated version of what I shared:
During Advent, Christians around the world spend the four Sundays before Christmas (and all the days in between) anticipating the birth of Christ. I think its easy for me, for people who grew up knowing about Christmas, to unintentionally minimize the wonder of Christmas. Israelites waited generations, centuries for the coming Messiah. Prophets throughout the Old Testament would be blessed with glimpses and promises of what this Savior would be like: he would crush the serpent’s head, he would reign on David’s throne, the government would be on his shoulders, he could proclaim liberty to the captives and be called Prince of Peace. And yet still, even with these increasing revelations, God’s people waited.
Hebrews 11 talks about just some of the faithful men and women who died, in hope, waiting for this promised Savior. We acknowledge these truths in our carols: “Come, thou long expected Jesus,” “O come, o come, Emmanuel,” “long lay the world, in sin and error, pining till He appeared.”
And so Advent is the season where we wait. We join with the saints of the Old Testament and we remember that this Messiah was not just sent for me, but for all who would believe, even those who are far off. We recite what we already know to be true: “Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee o Israel.”
But even as we sing these words, we know that Israel’s story is also our story. Christ has come! He has lived the life that we could not live, and died and rose again so that, as promised, he would crush the serpent’s head, reign on David’s throne, and proclaim liberty to the captive. But we will await his return – the final fulfillment of all the prophesies that were begun on that first Christmas day. We too, experience “a thrill of hope [as] the weary world rejoices” and long for the pain and heartache of this world to pass away.
And so during Advent, we join with the church, as one body, lighting our Advent candles and visibly being reminded that Christ is the light of the world, and that that light grows brighter as the day of his coming draws nearer. And we can sing, all the louder:
Come thou long expected Jesus.”