Posted by: Johnold Strey | December 14, 2010

Five Reasons to Love Advent

For those of you who kindly stop in regularly, I’m sorry that things have been more than a little quiet lately.  I tend to have quiet blogging stretches from time to time, and those “times” are getting more and more frequent.  I could plead that the holidays have been more of a “holidaze” — and that would not be entirely off base — but the truth is that I have a much more important writing project that I’m working on, and I feel that my “writing time” (if a pastor has such a thing!) is best spent on that project.  If you’re curious, all I’ll say for now is that you’ll have to wait a year or two to find out — pending acceptance of my work!  On most Mondays I take myself, my project binder, and my laptop to the local Starbucks where they now know me so well that they know my drink before I even order it (venti no water whole milk chai latte … or just a grande if I’m feeling conservative) and I research, outline, or write the next segment.  There have been plenty of delays in this project, but I feel the need to keep chuggin’ away at it — hence the less frequent contributions on the blogosphere.

That said, my mind hasn’t been short of potential blog posts.  So, from time to time, I’ll try to make sure that the digital dust doesn’t collect too much on this site.  Past Advent seasons have produced some popular posts — “The Wisdom of Waiting” and “Advent Wreath 101,” which is the post with the greatest number of all-time hits on this blog.  And Advent is obviously on my mind lately since we’re right in the middle of another Advent season.  And that’s where today’s musings lead me — random thoughts about Advent that have been percolating in the back of my mind over the last few weeks:

FIVE REASONS TO LOVE ADVENT

1. Advent is a refuge from “secular Christmas.”  In the post I mentioned earlier, “The Wisdom of Waiting,” I told a story from ten years ago about an encounter with a fully decorated Christmas tree in a Milwaukee-area department story in mid-September.  We hadn’t even celebrated Halloween, baseball hadn’t reached the playoffs, football was barely underway, but the signs of secular Christmas were alive and well!  Each year I hear more and more people complaining about the same thing: secular Christmas starts earlier and earlier, and quite frankly, we get tired of it long before December 25 rolls around.  But Advent provides a refuge from secular Christmas.  Instead of celebrating, we anticipate.  Instead of loud jingle bells and frenzied shoppers, we have quiet, contemplative worship and a sanctuary (figuratively and literally) from the hustle and bustle of life.  Advent is not primarily about achieving a contemplative religious ambiance, but given what our culture has to offer this time of year, Advent worship offers a much-needed break from an over-commercialized society. 

2. Advent truly prepares us for Christmas.  Before we get to the manger scene on Christmas, Advent worship gets us to think about our spiritual preparation for Christ’s entrance into this world.  The themes of the first three Sundays in Advent could be summed up with three “R” words: readiness, repentance, and rejoicing.  The first Sunday’s emphasis on readiness leads us to focus on the necessity of faith in Christ.  The Second Sunday’s call to repentance leads us to recognize that Christ entered into our world to be primarily our Savior from sin, not just our moral teacher or life coach.  The Third Sunday’s focus on rejoicing anticipates the joy believers have when the incarnate God comes to dwell among them — and when he comes again to bring them into the mansions of heaven.  The preparation emphasis found especially on the first three Sundays of the season helps us to focus on the reason for Christ’s birth and provides meaningful spiritual depth to our Christmas celebration.

3. Advent includes many rich and meaningful traditions.  The advent wreathThe O Antiphons.  The hymns of the season, such as “Savior of the Nations, Come” (the Hymn of the Day for the First Sunday in Advent) and “Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel” (the Hymn of the Day for the Fourth Sunday in Advent).  Various traditions have developed around this season that bring the church’s longing for Christ’s salvation into concrete expressions of ceremony and song.  Like so many customs that the church has developed throughout her history, the customs of Advent help us to proclaim the gospel in multi-sensory ways — an increasingly useful tool as we enter into more and more of a post-literate and multi-cultural world.

4. Advent encourages us to dive into the Old Testament.  The First Lesson for this year’s Advent lectionary cycle presents us with several gems from Isaiah — Isaiah 2:1-5, Isaiah 11:1-10, Isaiah 35:1-10, and Isaiah 7:10-14.  Advent is an excellent time for us to dive into the Old Testament and especially these prophecies about the Savior who was to come and has now come.  We put ourselves in the sandals of Old Testament believers who held on to the promises of God recorded by the prophets, who predicted the Messiah’s birth, lineage, life, ministry, death, and resurrection.  Advent provides a natural opportunity to “connect the dots” between the Testaments.

5. Advent keeps our eyes focused on the Second Advent.  The three-year lectionary (i.e. the series of readings used in worship) puts a strong emphasis on the Second Advent of Christ, even as we prepare for his first Advent.  In a sense, this helps us to keep the Advent season “real.”  We’re not just taking a trip down prophecy lane when we celebrate Advent.  As we think about the centuries that God’s people waited and watched for the Messiah, we can’t help but think about our own waiting and watching — not for the birth of the Savior, but for his return on the Last Day.  While not ignoring an emphasis on Jesus’ first Advent, this season keeps before us the need to be ready for his Second Advent.

Those are my five somewhat random Advent thoughts.  Do you have any you’d like to add?

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Responses

  1. Excellent, thank you! Shared it on our blog and on Facebook.

    Ben

  2. Great post! I agree with all of this.

    I would add that all too often, religious Christmas encroaches upon Advent right alongside secular Christmas–I’ve turned up for Advent worship (both midweek and Sunday) more than once for what turned out to be yet another “children’s Christmas” service. I believe my current congregation has no fewer than three separate children’s services, and two of them supplant Advent worship. I have absolutely nothing against children’s Christmas services (especially the 2009 NPH offering, of course–which is exceptional in this regard for including more than the usual perfunctory Advent theme, often hurried over in an effort to get to the carols) but we already have such a short period of time in which to enjoy our rich heritage of Advent hymnody, and I’m disappointed to lose weeks!

  3. I really enjoyed it and couldn’t agree more. Glad to hear the same good news from our (WELS) Church all over the world.


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