All around us we see signs of Christmas; stores are decorated, shows and commercials on television have gone to Christmas themes, Christmas Tree stands are up and the black Friday sales have begun. For the secular world, Christmas is here in full force and it isn’t even December first yet. In the church world, we are still over four weeks away from the Christmas season which officially begins on December 24th and last 12 days. In fact, before we can enter into Christmas, we must wait for the long expected birth of Christ during the Advent season.
The four weeks of Advent are a time set aside for Christians to remember the past, our present condition and also look to the future. Fleming Rutledge, in her book “Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Christ” explains it this way, “It would generally be agreed that Advent celebrates three “advents”. Adventus redemptionis: the incarnate Christ “born of the Virgin Mary, crucified under Pontius Pilate” Adventus sanctificationis: the presence of Christ in Word and sacrament and Advent gloricamus: the coming in glory to be our judge on the last day” (pg 5). During Advent, we are made aware of the human form of Christ, born of Mary and crucified for our sins. Looking to the past, we recall the longing of the Isrealites for a messiah, acutely aware that for Christians, Jesus is the messiah who came down from Heaven in order to atone for the sins of humanity. We have the privilege of knowing the story as recounted in the Gospels. It is as a result of this knowledge that leads us into the second Advent, the presence of Christ in the Word and sacrament. This year, the Gospel readings we hear during Advent will remind us of not only the human side of Jesus but also the expectation of His second coming. It is this third Advent, the coming again of Christ that seems to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the secular world. The coming of Christ once again should be the primary focus of Advent. We should be looking forward to the promised future when Christ comes again to perfect the kingdom of God.
In all three Advent’s, we remember how much we and the world need the messiah. Each is an example of God’s promise to creation that the kingdom of God will once again be perfected. The season is firmly built upon the premise that “God is the active agent in creation and redemption. (pg 18.)” While Advent is not widely considered a penitential season, due the promised future, Advent is a season during which we all should examine our lives in anticipation of Jesus coming again. As we look toward the future redemption and judgment in the second coming of Christ, we should spend the four week of Advent, examining ourselves. One way in which we can prepare ourselves is by reflecting on the collects for Advent daily. In praying the collects, we can begin to understand the importance of preparation. In order to help, I have copied the Collect for the Second Sunday of Advent below.
“Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” (BCP, 211)