This past Sunday marked the beginning of the season traditionally known as "Advent". But, what exactly is Advent and why does it matter today?
This four week season leading up to Christmas has been recognized by follower of Jesus since the early centuries of the church. It has served as a way of intentionally preparing our hearts for the Big Day of Christmas. The word itself is Latin and simply means "coming", which points us to the coming of Jesus. The purpose of Advent is heart-preparation for the world-changing news that Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is born.
In a world where the Christmas season often stirs up more stress, busyness, and anxiety than peace, love, and joy, the focus of Advent calls us to slow down, reflect, and experience something more, something deeper. The familiarity of the Christmas story and our cultural traditions can also have the unfortunate and unintended side-effect of dulling the life-changing good news of Jesus' arrival into our world. Advent challenges us to see the story again with fresh eyes and fresh hearts and respond with fresh faith.
Robert Webber writes that, "Advent is the time when God breaks in on us with new surprises and touches us with a renewing and restoring power."
Isn't that so often what we need?
In the midst of our own life's rhythm, the rhythm of Christian seasons such as Advent confront us with the ultimate reality of God's unfolding story and invite us to recalibrate our lives to it. We can do Christmas the same as previous years or we can experience a "renewing and restoring power" as we intentionally put our focus on the coming ("Advent") of Jesus - not only his first coming, but the ways he continues to come into our lives, and the way he will one day come again.
Advent matters because it gives us the challenge we all so desperately need to break out from the same old same old and allow God's story to break in to our lives in fresh new ways.
If you go to our special Christmas page you'll find several different Advent resources for more intentionally preparing your heart this season.