Advent is a time to stop and reflect upon the question: What time is it? The word “Advent” means “a coming” or “an arrival” or “appearing.” Advent is here to remind us that we exist in a certain time of God’s great plan of redemption. We exist between the time of Christ’s first coming and the time of his second coming at the end of history. But standing in between these two great epochs of time, Advent doesn’t emphasize the absence of the Lord. If fact quite the opposite. Advent also emphasized the many ways and times that the Lord comes to us through the means of grace and in our lives together as believers.
The colors of Advent are purple and sometimes blue. They are royal colors, for they serve to remind us that Advent is about the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He has come, he continues to come, and he will come some day as our sovereign Lord.
Christians have made the mistake of making Advent all about Christmas. We can easily treat it as simply a run-up to Christmas. Our culture has even pushed it beyond this as we now begin to see Christmas lights and Christmas music as soon as Halloween is over. There is no room for Advent. It is evidence of a further secularization of our culture that has forgotten the received habits of marking time according to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Our calendars have become secular and this secularism is even encroaching on our religious practices and habits. Celebrating Advent is a form of witness-bearing to the Lordship of Christ. It’s a way of living out a conviction that the world we inhabit and serve exists under the Lordship of Christ.
But Advent is also about waiting. This is why it’s often seen as a prelude to Christmas. We wait. When I was young, I remember having family devotions around our kitchen table. During Advent, we had the advent wreath with a candle for each week. I so wanted to light all the candles at once, but I had to wait until Christmas Eve. It taught us that Advent was about waiting. We wait. The timing of Advent coincides with the darkening of the day and growing cold of approaching winter. We wait in the dark and we wait in the cold; anticipating the light of Christ to appear and to warm our hearts.
When we gather these thoughts together, we see that Advent is a rathe solemn and reflective period. It ironically forms a sharp contrast to the material consumerism with its Christmas lists and frenetic last-minute shopping. Advent has no “black Friday” or “online specials.” It calls us to reflect on the fact that we have a great need for a savior and that we continue to wait each day for the final redemption of all things. Advent celebrates incompleteness. Advent longs for consummation.
Advent sets in relief the two great advents of our Lord. One that has come and one that we await. The habit of waiting at advent reminds us that we have nothing within ourselves to deliver us from our predicament. Further it waits in faith upon God’s timing and not ours. Advent is an exercise of living faith.
More than anything, Advent calls us to repent. The emphasis on Christ’s Lordship not only exults Christ, but it points to the fact that all too often, we try to assume the mantle of Lordship over our own lives that live in a way that appears to challenge the fundamental premise of our status as servants of the Lord our God.