A New Beginning
When I think of the Advent season, my mind goes back 25 years. My fiancé and I were attending a liturgical church. We planned to have the pastor perform our marriage ceremony. My church background was far from “liturgical.” Bruce and I had an appointment for pre-marriage counseling with the pastor. I arrived first and sat in the secretary’s office. As I waited, the church secretary asked, “Are you pregnant?” My stunned feelings must have showed on my face, because she elaborated, “The only time anyone gets married during Advent is if she is pregnant.” I assured her that although I planned to get married on December 19, I wasn’t pregnant. Dos and don’ts associated with the Advent season weren’t on my radar.
Advent is the first Season in the church year. It begins on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew, the Apostle (30 November). That means that the First Sunday of Advent can fall as early as November 27 or as late as December 3. Protestants celebrate Advent in the four Sundays prior to the birth of Jesus, the Christ. When I want to know when Advent occurs, typically, I look at Christmas Day (December 25) and count backward four Sundays.
Advent is one of the more confusing seasons in the church, perhaps because it has gone through so much evolution. Further, different church denominations have different traditions associated with the season. Some Church scholars contended that Advent was founded by St. Peter; yet, definitive conclusions about the origin of Advent are shrouded in history. We know that Gregory the Great (Pope 590 – 604 AD) was the first notable cleric to identify four weeks for Advent. Martin Luther encouraged families to observe Advent as a time to teach children about the coming of Jesus. Luther opposed the secularism, i.e., giving gifts, raucous feasting, of the Christmas season.
Advent anticipates the coming of Jesus from three different perspectives: a) his coming in glory at the end of time, b) his coming in our hearts, and c) Jesus, the Christ, born in flesh in Bethlehem. Advent symbolizes Jesus in our hearts and looks forward to his second coming; yet, most of us overlook this aspect of Advent as we prepare for Jesus’ birth.
For Christians, the Advent take-away message is joy. Joy that the Son of God willingly took on flesh and was born, not as a king, but as a baby with humble, earthly parents. Joy that Jesus lives in us. Joy in anticipation of Jesus’ second coming.
Reflection: How can you prevent your mind, family, and store decorations from hurrying you into Christmastide?
Copyright: 11/1/2020, Carolyn Adams Roth