So, what is Advent anyway?
The word ‘advent’ comes from the Latin word adventus, ‘a coming, approach, arrival.’ In the Christian Church, we are currently in the first week of Advent, which also happens to be the beginning of the liturgical year on the Church calendar. It is probably strange to hear that the four weeks before Christmas are historically a season of fasting (like Lent before Easter)–our culture does not reflect that, Christian or secular. I am with most of you–Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving, carols on while we decorate, etc. (Confession: this year we put up most of our decorations the weekend before Thanksgiving!)
I say this with a little sadness: the church we attend does not sing Christmas carols until Christmas Day. (Sometimes we ‘cheat’ a little at a special service called “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols,” which in Anglican tradition really shouldn’t happen until Christmas Eve, at the earliest.)
Why all this gloominess before Christmas Day? Shouldn’t we celebrate as long as we can that Jesus came to earth and became human? We know that December 25 isn’t actually the day he was born, but we should celebrate someday…
Well, Advent is a season of preparing our hearts for Jesus’ second coming as we remember the state of the world before His first coming. That means, yes–drawing near to Jesus with repentance and fasting (or abstaining, if what you’re giving up isn’t actually food. For me, it’s Facebook!). We prepare our hearts, like the carol says…and THEN! Heaven and nature will sing! The feast of the Incarnation (aka Nativity) is SUCH a cause for celebration! But it’s like gorging ourselves on the day before Thanksgiving only to be too full on Thursday to take a bite…does that make sense?
And the Church knows how to party. You know the song “The 12 Days of Christmas”? There are TWELVE feasting days, not just one, from December 25 to January 5. And then the season of feasting reaches its climax and conclusion on January 6, known by two names: Epiphany and the Day of the Magi. It is this day that God reveals His salvation to the world through the wise men and also the day we celebrate Jesus’ baptism.
So what do we do with all that jazz?
Zachary and I are torn about how to properly observe Advent while still longing for the ‘Christmas spirit.’ Please take no judgment from me–I’m all about listening to carols during Advent (because my fabulous husband plays them so beautifully on the piano!), but I cannot stomach the Christian radio in our town…it is almost exclusively Christmas music right now. We are focusing on preparing our hearts for Jesus’ 2nd advent by giving up things (like Facebook) to spend more time focusing on our need and the world’s need for Him. We are discussing what it will look like once Lily gets here–a present a day for 12 days instead of all on the 25th?
It’s hard to challenge the culture of my own heart that is practically in love with the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But, because I know there are holy rhythms and timing, I believe that it’s definitely worth struggling through.
And in the meantime, I have written an Advent song. I pray that it points you towards Jesus and His second coming. And oh, will we celebrate then!