(Originally posted on That Reformed Blog)
Advent: n. An arrival, or coming into being; the coming or arrival of something extremely important. (with capital A, in Christianity) the coming of Christ; in the church calendar Advent is the four week period prior to Christmas. [From Latin adventus, meaning arrival.]
The 2003 British Christmas film, Love Actually, takes place during Advent. The first scene of the movie features a voiceover from Hugh Grant’s character saying, “Whenever I get a bit gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals terminal at Heathrow.” He explains that the arrivals terminal is where love is unselfconsciously on display.
For American Christians in the 21st century, Advent has become one of two things. It is either:
· Irrelevant and forgotten, as in: “Advent? Never heard of it”; or
· Relegated to a “season” of frantic, mind-numbing, holiday busy-ness (preparing, decorating, shopping, partying, wrapping, shipping, baking, and overeating) that drives our stress levels into the stratosphere.
Many people think of Advent as a time of waiting and preparation, similar to the waiting and preparation that happens before a baby is born. In some respects this is true, as that singular event which occurred more than two thousand years ago is re-enacted by Sunday School children in Christmas Pageants across the globe. Christians need to remember and relive the journey of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. It grounds us and reminds us that God did, in fact, come to earth as an infant and that His birth was announced by both the lowly shepherds and the glorious angels alike.
Remembering Jesus’ humble arrival in the midst of the chaotic Roman Empire comforts us and lends our lives meaning in the cold, impersonal, technological world we live in (which is not unlike the Palestine of Jesus’ day). It was the ultimate juxtaposition of Godly and worldly power.
But we need to remember that Advent means Arrival, not waiting or remembering. Advent is like the Arrivals Terminal at Heathrow.
Advent is “Love unselfconsciously on display” for everyone to see. God showed His unconditional love for humanity by arriving on earth in the form of an infant in a cow shed. God didn’t care what anyone else thought about it – Jesus’ arrival was God’s love on display. And when we live in God’s love for us in Jesus, we are free to display our love for God and others unselfconsciously.
May you have a blessed Advent.