The meaning of Advent
I would venture to guess that 2020 has not been the year that most of us expected or wanted: coronavirus, murder hornets, shootings, rioting, protesting, civil unrest, an election cycle punctuated by polarization, forest fires that have ravaged the west coast, a series of hurricanes … the list could go on. We are all ready for a respite, and I often hear the hopeful sentiment, “We just need to make it to 2021,” or “I’m so ready for 2020 to be done.”
I don’t know exactly what people are expecting to happen when the clock strikes 12:01 a.m. on January 1, 2021, but I can appreciate the sentiment. This year we have found ourselves groaning in eager expectation for something new, longing for things to be restored, to be set back to “the way they used to be.”
As Christians, this idea of longing and expectation is not new. It sits right at the heart of what we believe. We know that the world is not the way it was created to be. We know that we ourselves are not the way we are supposed to be. We also know that something has been done, and is being done, about it. Enter Advent.
Advent, from the Latin word adventus, means coming or arrival. It is the beginning of the liturgical year for the Church, taking us through the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent is a season of longing. It is a time of expectant waiting as we remember that the hopes and fears of all the years are not answered by human striving or human ingenuity, but by a little baby, born in a manger in Bethlehem. This baby is God’s son. He is the once and future King; the one who has come, and the one who will come again. He is the light shining in the darkness. He is the one whose Kingdom is advancing through humility and service and sacrifice. He is the one who is able to heal the broken and restore the dead to life.
In Advent, we remember, and we look forward with joyful expectation, knowing that our hope is not in vain.
As we walk through this season as a community, we catch tangible reminders of what has been done and what is coming. Each Sunday in Advent, the pastors wear purple stoles as they lead in worship, purple being the color of royalty, the stole representing the towel that Jesus used to wash his disciples’ feet. It is a visual declaration that Jesus, the baby born in the manger, who washes our feet and heals us with his blood, is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
“In Advent, we remember, and we look forward with joyful expectation, knowing that our hope is not in vain.”
– Rev. Dan Hutchinson
In the same way, the candles of hope, peace, joy and love, which are lit successively each week, remind us that the light of Christ overcomes the darkness, and they challenge us to consider the nature of the King and the Kingdom that is coming. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, the joy of the highest heavens, the embodiment of God’s love, and the one for whom our hearts hope. As those who claim Christ as Lord and long for the Kingdom, we should be filled with hope, seek peace, live with joy, and love even as we have been loved. Christmas Eve, as the fifth candle, or Christ candle, is lit, we remember that Christ has come, that Christ is with us even now by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and that Christ will come again.
The King is coming. His Kingdom is making its way into our lives, into our homes, into our families, so we have every reason to rejoice, to give thanks, and to live with an inexorable hope; even in a time like 2020.