Yesterday our church (www.fbcpo.org) started our annual journey through Advent. I freely confess Advent is one of my most favorite times of the year. So often we confuse Advent with the season of Christmas. The two are designed to be separate. Advent prepares us spiritually for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord. Advent is to Christmas what Lent is to Easter. Through the years there are five things that I have come to particularly enjoy about the season of Advent.
- Prophecy—The first Sunday of Advent usually carries a heavy emphasis upon prophecy. Jesus Christ came the first time, according to Hebrew Bible prophecy, and he will likewise come again. I like this emphasis because in my usual teaching and preaching ministry I really do not spend much time on the subject because it is never one of those ‘urgent’ issues. However, the sacred time of Advent brings the issue to my thoughts ever year and I am blessed because of it.
- Candles—Advent is observed with the lightly of candles. I love ‘smells and bells’ and am kind of a closet Episcopalian on this particular issue. Baptists—my particular tribe, are not usually much of a aesthetic group of people but this time of year even the most practical and functional folk will give in to the ritual and beauty of a candle.
- Scripture—It is impossible to properly observe Advent without a strong dose of Scripture. Indeed, the whole season revolves around the lectionary. I am celebrating this year by translating the gospel readings from Luke from Greek into English. When I finish each week, I may post my translation here on the blog.
- Focus—Advent’s key job today is to take our mind away from the slavish service to the marketplace and focus us back onto the real emphasis of Christmas. My perception is that this is why the observance of Advent is making its way into many non-liturgical Protestant and free churches. It is truly sad to me that our sacred time has been hijacked by people hocking electronic gadgets. If it were not for Advent and the traditional focus of this time of year; it would likely give up on Christmas and just let the heathens have it. In the midst of the pagan abuse, Advent keeps me grounded on the gospel.
- Climax—As a storyteller nothing is as thrilling to me as rising action that culminates in a dazzling climax of action. This is what Advent does with the Christmas narrative—it provides the rising action. Without this sense of dramatic unfolding the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day events are a little flat. It’s like skipping the whole book and just reading the last chapter. You might know what happened, but you don’t necessarily know why or why it is significant.