This year, we begin our Advent celebration on Sunday, December 6th. (Yeah, for you ardent Advent followers out there, we know we’re off a week, but planning got a little wonky!) Maybe some of the rest of you haven’t given much thought to Advent before, so here’s a little crash course.
The season of Advent has been around for a looooong time. The earliest written records of Advent date back to 380 AD, but we know the Church likely celebrated Advent in some form before then.
You might also be surprised how far back our present-day traditions go. For example, the beloved Christmas carol, “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is an Advent song with origins in monastic songs from the 700s and 800s!
So, what is Advent about anyway? The word “advent” is from the Latin word adventus which means “coming” or “arrival.” Just as the season of Lent prepares us to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection, the season of Advent prepares us to celebrate Christ’s coming—his arrival in our world. Advent also reminds us to wait with eager expectation for Jesus’ second coming.
This year, more than any other most of us can remember, is a year when our hearts truly need Advent. Because we are unable to worship in person, we feel cut off and isolated. But the truth is that we are not alone. The truth is that the whole Church: Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Anabaptists and Evangelicals, are joined together in anticipation of Jesus’ arrival. The Holy Spirit unites millions of us across countries, languages, denominations, and even across the centuries through that great cloud of witnesses.
Our hearts also need Advent because we need light in these dark days. The beautiful tradition of Advent candles reminds us of the themes of hope, peace, joy and love but most of all they remind us that Jesus is the light that illuminates the world. Take heart! We are not alone. Jesus has come, and Jesus is coming again. May that light carry you through the dark.