This week is the start of Advent?
So what is Advent? And when is it? Where does it come from in Church history?
These are actually more complex questions than they sound. If you buy an advent calendar, they usually have 24 days – that is – one for each day of the month of December, leading up to Christmas. In Church, we celebrate Advent for four weeks prior to Christmas. That sounds certain doesn’t it (until you realise that we didn’t agree on 25 December as the date for Christmas until the 300s, and Jesus was probably born in 4-6 years before zero BC!).
The first evidence of Advent being celebrated is also found later in the 4th century. Advent is basically the lead up to the big day of Christmas. Unlike the Passover which becomes Easter, there is no biblical precedent for celebrating Advent (let alone Christmas!).
So why did the Church start celebrating Advent? I will deal with that question another week, when we consider why Christians started celebrating Christmas on 25 December. For now, let’s consider what did the Church focus on during the season of Advent.
The Latin word ‘adventus’ is a translation of the Greek word ‘parousia’. This word points to the coming of Christ in human flesh and his Second Coming. Advent, then, historically has focused on both.
Today we tend to focus on only the later. That is, on Jesus coming in the flesh at Christmas. It is right for us to celebrate the moment when God’s long-promised Messiah, broke into our physical realm and became one of us.
It is a shame, however, that we have moved away from the twin celebration of the fact that the Jesus who came, is coming again. We are a people who both look back at the moment God broke into history, and look forward to his coming again in glory when the King’s reign shall be on earth as it is in heaven. The Parousia is a gift that gives twice. Combined, it is the best gift ever.
Rev David Rietveld
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