Faith Column: The season of Advent
December 11, 2015
The season of Advent is upon us, that series of four Sundays prior to Christmas when we prepare for the coming of the Lord on Christmas Day. In our tradition, the first Sunday of Advent is the first day of the new Church year and each of the Sundays in Advent represent certain truths and/or traditions that we celebrate about the coming of the birth of Jesus Christ on Dec. 25 of each year.
Do you know what the word Advent actually means? Adventus is Latin for "coming" and is very representative of how we celebrate the coming of the baby Jesus to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem in a stable approximately two thousand years ago. It is what we celebrate when we celebrate the actual birthday of the Messiah. Adventus however is also a translation of the Greek parousia, which means "presence" or "arrival" and is most generally understood to denote the future return of Christ in glory. This is in reference to the time when Christ will return to earth to judge the living and the dead and should draw all of us to a period of reflection and repentance during this period of time that we call Advent. (See Oxford Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church). In essence, we are celebrating two complementary themes during Advent, the first is the event of the birth of the Messiah in the town of David, which fulfilled all scripture written about the coming of the Lord, and the second is the anticipation of eternal life after judgment upon the return of the Messiah.
In seminary we referred to such a dichotomy stated above as the "already, but not yet". An example would be the references that Jesus makes to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is ushered in by Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; while at the same time has not come to fruition and completion at judgment. My firm belief is that the Kingdom of God is with us today, not just an event in the unforeseeable future, and it has been with us since Jesus walked on the earth as a human being. We have the ability today to live our lives in as holy and sacred a manner as we are able, being in a right relationship between ourselves and our Heavenly Father as well as between ourselves and our fellow human beings. We already have the ability to help those in need and to reach out and love our neighbors, all we have to do is "do it". We also know that we will not be fully incorporated into the Kingdom of God until such time as there is a termination of the old world order and a new order is established.
So this period of time known as Advent should be for us a time to celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus in flesh, as has already occurred. This birth of Jesus in human form also fulfilled for us the knowledge of how much God loves us, "that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life (John 3:16, NRSV). It should also be an acknowledgment that this season should also be a time of reflection, contemplation and repentance as we prepare for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to judge the world at an unknown time in the future.
During this season, may we pray, "Because thou didst send thy beloved Son to redeem us from sin and death, and to make us heirs in him of everlasting life; that when he shall come again in power and great triumph to judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing" (Book of Common Prayer, 1979).
The Rev. Bain White is the pastor at St. Mark's Episcopal Church/Lutheran Church of Grace.The Rev. Bain White is the pastor at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church/Lutheran Church of Grace.The Rev. Bain White is the pastor at St. Mark's Episcopal Church/Lutheran Church of Grace.