Today’s focus is on Advent, provided to us from the writings of Rob Staples, professor of theology emeritus at Nazarene Theological Seminary:
Advent is preparation for Christmas, not Christmas itself. It is only in commercial advertising that the Christmas season begins the first of December (or the first of October!). In the Christian calendar, Advent is the season including the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Christmas Day is December 25, and the Christmas Season itself is the 12 days from Christmas to Epiphany. Remember the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” with “a partridge in a pear tree?”
Epiphany, which celebrates the coming of the Magi, the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as King, is January 6. Epiphany means “showing” or “unveiling” and thus “unveils” the truth that salvation was for Gentiles as well as Jews.
Advent differs from Christmas in the same way Lent differs from Easter. Both Advent and Lent are times of preparation—Advent for Christmas and Lent for Easter.
The Christian calendar, unlike the calendar on our walls or desks, does not begin January 1. It begins the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is that season when the Church turns its gaze in two directions—past and future. It looks backward as it prepares to celebrate the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, and it looks forward as it engages in self-examination in preparation for Christ’s Second Coming in glory.
The word “advent” comes from the Latin adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival.” Thus in certain contexts it means the same as the Greek parousia. However, the latter term occurs in the New Testament only with reference to the Second Coming. During the Advent season, both these “comings” of Christ are embraced in the Church’s worship—His coming in the Incarnation and His coming at the end of the age.
Advent emphasizes hope, and it is this hope that makes Advent a proper preparation for Christmas.
Thanks for listening!
– Joe and Todd
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