I’ve always been particularly fond of this date, November 29. The main reason is because I was born today. Of course, I’m not the only one, as some of my most well-known “twins” include baseball icons Vin Scully and Mariano Rivera; actors Anna Faris and Brian Baumgartner; TV something Howie Mandel; and theologian C.S. Lewis (my personal favorite of the birthday buddies).
While 22 is not really anything to write home about (though I was home for Thanksgiving, which was nice), this year November 29 is the start of another birthday celebration, one that so greatly surpasses the greatness of all these other birthdays combined.
Today is the official start of Advent. For those who might not know, Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical year–which begins four Sundays before Christmas–and it is most commonly observed by the Catholic Church and Anglican high churches.
The basic, very general gist of Advent is that it celebrates Jesus coming down to earth. More than just Christmas, more than just the virgin birth that occurred that Silent, Holy Night, it puts a heavy emphasis both on his initial coming, as well as his Parousia–his second coming–and it leads up to Christmas and, after that, Christmastide (“On the first day of Christmas…” etc., etc.).
I cannot at all claim to be an expert on the topic, but in recent years, observing Advent has helped me find a sort of solace when stereotypical Christmas events have simply fallen short.
Somehow–believe it or not–I got tired of the 20 festive songs that played on repeat on the radio for an entire month.
“Cold” weather, Christmas movies, red and green decorations, 3 weeks off of school, and presents did not adequately supply me with I needed to get into the “spirit of Christmas.” Not even singing “O Holy Night” as loud and as frequently as possible could get me in the place I wanted to be on December 25.
It’s not that I had a problem with these things in general–trust me, they will all still be a huge part of my month this year–but there was still a void in me that needed to be filled.
I realized that there is still so much wrong in the world. There are people incapable of having a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” regardless of how many times it’s wished (or thrusted) upon them.
War does not stop–at least not permanently–on December 25. Death does not take a break to celebrate the birth of Christ.
There are those incapable of coming home for the holidays–whether it was because their flight was cancelled or because their home has been destroyed by hateful, evil people. Now, like the Israelites in Exodus through Deuteronomy, they’re wandering through the desert in search of a home. In search of a hope.
But they’re not alone in that feeling of misplacement, or, at least, they shouldn’t be. As Christians, we believe that our citizenship is in heaven and not on earth (Philippians 3:20), and therefore, while some of us may be settled here on earth with no immediate threat to our dwelling place, we yet know that we are not truly home. We are not yet in the place where we belong. We ourselves are nomads in the desert, exiles in Babylon.
And so as I started learning about Advent, I learned that it goes deeper than just acknowledging and celebrating the birth of Christ every 25 of December, blindly ignoring the pain in the world, but rather, it becomes a reflection of our world today and, even more so, a reflection of the Christian faith. We live in in-between times, in between where we had been and where we should be. Things were once perfect, and now they are not. But “soon” they will be again.
The Advent tradition also provides prayers, scripture, spiritual practices, and meditations that help dig deep into our very being. The coming of Christ consumes us and becomes more than just our “why” for the season, but also the “how.”
It shows that Jesus’s coming down to earth doesn’t stop at his birth, but emphasizes that which has not yet occurred. There is more to humanity’s story, one that starts and ends with Christ incarnate. And there is hope in this truth. While we may be wallowing in the sorrows of the world today–the injustices, the sin, the trials that we face, we know that we are simply in the process of waiting. We know that something greater is still to come.
And this is the very thing that drives me each passing day: hope. Certainty that the Savior and Messiah has come and is coming back again. Even in our darkest hour, we have this truth to which we can cling: the truth of Advent.
This is truly something worth celebrating, for:
Though we live in a fallen and broken world
that is never short of frustrations and sorrow,
We nevertheless have something to hope for—
someone in whom we can place our hope.
For behold! a child has been born among us
who’s come to bring peace and justice back to all the world.
For though we sin and oppress,
shun and pollute,
cast out and divide,
The Glorious One is coming, who will bring all things back
to where they were intended to be
to restore all things and renew all things
and fill in the holes we dug for ourselves
and restore our flesh when we depart from this earth.
And though we wait in pain and in anguish
the advent of Christ has been foretold.
He has come, and, lo—
he is coming back again.
Come, Lord Jesus,
come, and restore our hope in you again.
I don’t know about you, but I hope to get into the “Advent spirit” like never before this year. I also plan on posting a bit on the season as it progresses and include some ways that we can get better acquainted with Advent and with the liturgical calendar–something I never really knew much about in my church tradition growing up. I would love for you to join me.
If you would like to learn more about Advent, you can click on any of the links posted above or any of these links to blogs, videos, and other etc.’s posted below. Also, if you are interested, I have made a recording of the poem I ended up writing and including on this post, and you will be able to listen to that on my SoundCloud page below.
Thank you for reading. Until next time.
Dr. Jeff Childers, professor at Abilene Christian University:
Video 1 (8:45): https://vimeo.com/77725572
Video 2 (5:30): https://vimeo.com/77752420
Video 3 (2:24): https://vimeo.com/77754402
Video 4 (7:40): https://vimeo.com/77755290
Jonathon Storment, preacher at Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas:
Sarah Bessey, author and Canadian:
Dr. Richard Beck, professor at Abilene Christian University: http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2014/12/advent-prison-story.html
Daily Scripture Readings during Advent from The Voice: Christian Resource Institute:
2015-2016 Liturgical Calendar:
Why the Wreath? (As Explained by the United Methodist Church):
An Explanation of the Candles:
Sunday Night Wreath Meditations:
BONUS: A PDF Version of the Advent poem (before the minor edits I have made since first publishing this post):