By Rev. John Campbell, United Presbyterian, Oakdale
Currently we are in the midst of the Fall season with all the changes that happen as we enter the colder time of our year. In my younger years, I have lived in areas where the seasons were less dramatic. In Southern California this time of the year is marked by rain and summer is dry. Yet wherever we live there are changes. We keep track of time and seasons of the year by using calendars that provide us opportunities to observe, commemorate, and celebrate certain events or occasions. The Church has long used the seasons of the year, reflecting Jewish traditions, as an opportunity for sacred time set aside to worship God as the Lord of life.
Our question this month is: What is Advent and should it be observed?
Advent is a word that I did not grow up with. In the family in which I was raised, we had Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. We were not informed by the concept of the Christian year. It has only been in my latter years that I have come to appreciate this aspect of the greater Church. Just as a reminder the word ‘Advent’ comes to us from Latin, meaning “coming.”
Advent anticipates the coming of Christ from two different perspectives: the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming. Advent is celebrated in the light of the Resurrection.
One has explained the reason for the request of not singing carols during Advent is because of the desire to experience and proclaim the hope which Israel waited in faith for the Messiah. As St. Paul wrote to the church that we “eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” This waiting refers to our looking forward to the day of Christ’s Return. And in this part of our Christian life, it is good to focus again on this coming during this Advent season.
Each congregation and pastor will have their own tradition of the celebration of Advent. Formerly Presbyterian pastors tended to just preach straight through the books of the Bible, and not observing seasons except Christmas and Easter. Now we recognize that emblems help in focusing our minds. In our church we have the Advent wreath with the four candles, one being lit each Sunday before Christmas. And on Christmas eve, we light the white candle in the middle of the wreath which is called ‘the Christ candle.’
The practice of keeping Advent reminds us in this busy world that Christ is coming again. Of course as we begin a new Church year, hopefully we are not the same people as last year. In Christ we are to grow in our relationship with our Lord. The hope we bring to this year’s Advent has been tested and tried during the past year. And as Andre Crouch sang, ‘through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,… I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.’
Yes, it is good to remembers Jesus’ birth, but our hope is in Christ coming again!
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