Look around you and you will see that we have entered the “Christmas season.” Decorations all around. Towns and cities with decorations and lights strung, inviting you to come and shop. Stores decked out in a festive spirit and that familiar and welcome Christmas music playing wherever you go. Concerts and programs and plays to attend. Yes, the Christmas season is here.
No! It’s not! There goes that pastor again, ruining all the fun! While the world around us is in the Christmas season, Christians are not. We are in the time of Advent, a season of great anticipation and expectant waiting as we take time to learn what it means to wait patiently in hope. But not the false hope of this consumeristic society, rather the true hope of salvation. One might bring happiness for a while, the other, for eternity.
Advent is a Latin word that means “to come.” Appropriately, it is the first season of the church year. So, on a side note, happy new year! The church has observed Advent since about the mid-fifth century. The color used to be purple, but that color is also used in Lent. To better differentiate these seasons, blue became the color for Advent. The color blue signifies hope.
We hang a wreath in the sanctuary and each week light another candle. Each week in Advent has its own emphasis in waiting, and we remember that emphasis in words and prayer during the lighting of the candle. The Advent wreath becomes a symbol of our waiting and watching during this season. It most likely originated among early Lutherans in Germany.
Living in the season of Advent, we hear the words of Jesus alerting us to keep awake. We hear John the Baptist announce the coming of one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and that we should make straight his way. Finally, on the fourth Sunday, we hear the angel tell Mary that she will have a child who will be called the Son of the Most High and of his kingdom, there will be no end. Mary then utters the words that changed the course of the world “let it be with me according to your word.”
Of course, we no longer wait for the Savior to come. He has come. He has given us his salvation. He has freed us from the power of sin and death. He has died and is risen. He ascended into heaven. We live now in hopeful waiting for his promised return. Advent helps us prepare for the celebration of our Lord’s birth but, more importantly, this season serves to remind us that we still wait and teaches us to wait patiently for we do not know the day or the hour that the Son of Man will come again.
Don’t let this rich season of the church year pass you by as you get caught up in all the hustle and bustle of this time of year. Take time to worship and be reminded that waiting isn’t so bad, that there is hope in a world that seems out of control, and of the fact that we have good reason to be joyful. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.