3 Reasons Your Church Should Celebrate Advent
With the recent tumult in our world, it is easy to forget the fast-approaching church season of Advent. While not every church or Christian tradition observes this season, with all that is happening in our world, now is a great time to consider the meaning and value of celebrating Advent. This season marks the beginning of a new year in the traditional church calendar, and it is the first chapter in the long story that culminates in the cross and resurrection of Holy Week.
If your church doesn't already incorporate elements of Advent celebration in your services leading up to Christmas, here are three reasons your church should consider celebrating Advent - both personally and corporately - this season.
1. It is a reminder of the past.
The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming.” In one sense, this refers to the first coming of Christ in which we, as the church, remember and join in the anticipation of the first coming of Christ. We read about the coming of Christ in three of the four Gospels. These accounts remind us of Jesus’ humanity, born like every one of us - vulnerable and dependant. They remind us of Jesus’ royalty, recognized by the magi as a coming king. And they remind us of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, heralded by the angels as the anointed one from God who would make all things new. It is in these accounts of his coming that we remember that something great has happened in our own story that has left the world in a state of now-but-not-yet.
So, as you celebrate Advent, your church and church staff can look at the brokenness of the world and remember that the Savior came vulnerable and powerful into the world to bring good news to the poor, freedom to the enslaved, and sight to the blind.
2. It is the anticipation of the future.
The roots of the Latin adventus originate in the Greek parousia, which refers to the second coming of Christ. In this, Advent takes on a second meaning in which the Church not only remembers Jesus’ birth but looks expectantly towards his second coming. This facet of Advent is commonly overlooked. It’s easy to get caught up in the Christmas spirit and focus solely on the nativity scenes and carols, but the truth is, many of the ancient Christmas carols carry this second meaning of Advent along with the first.
In fact, one of the most common Christmas carols, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” is actually an Advent hymn that anticipates the coming Messiah and the final culmination of his return. This theme is heard clearly in these lines:
“O come, O come, thou Dayspring bright!
Pour on our souls thy healing light;
Dispel the long night's lingering gloom,
And pierce the shadows of the tomb.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”
Advent gives us a space to recognize the ways in which sin has corrupted our world and to cry out with longing for God’s coming healing and restoration. This Advent, as we mourn the recent tragedies in our world, the hunger of the poor, and the daily injustices that we ourselves witness (and often participate in), we can call out longingly for God’s healing light as we anticipate the day when Christ will wipe away every tear from our eyes and make all things new.
3. It reminds us that we are part of a bigger story.
Lastly, as we participate in these holy rhythms, we join an ancient story that spans millennia, nations, languages, and denominations. While the Christian faith is deeply personal, it is also a corporate faith that invites each one of us into the larger story that is the Kingdom of God. Advent is a time in which our faith is recognized as bigger than our local congregation, and it reminds us that we are a part of a bigger story.
In times of conflict (like that which we see every day on the news), it is vital that we cling to the Christian practices that remind us that there is no Jew nor Gentile, no slave nor free - the traditions of faith that remind us that the Kingdom of God transcends all political positions, nationalistic stances, and is greater than any threat of terrorism.
How does your church celebrate Advent?