By the church calendar, today is Advent Sunday, the beginning of the Church (Liturgical) year. Four Sundays to Christmas, so it is countdown to Christmas.
The liturgical year is one of the ways the church remembers and celebrates the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The prayers and Scripture readings of Advent help us to prepare for Christmas, when Christ’s first coming is celebrated, and also for Christ’s final coming at the end of time.
The word “Advent,” from the Latin adventus (Greek parousia), means “coming” or “arrival.” The Advent Season is focused on the anticipating the arrival of Jesus as Messiah (Christ or King).
Advent not only prepare us spiritually for Christmas, but also for his eventual second coming. This is why the Bible readings during Advent include both Old Testament passages related to the expected Messiah, and New Testament passages concerning Jesus’ second coming as judge of all. Also, passages about John the Baptist, the precursor who prepared the way for the Messiah. Since Advent looks forward to Christ’s birth and Incarnation, it is an appropriate way to begin the Church Year.
The liturgical colour for Advent is violet or purple, and the season is somewhat penitential, similar to Lent, although not explicitly so. The character of worship during Advent is solemn, quiet, and less festive than during other times of the year. For example, the Gloria in Excelsis is not used. The use of violet reflects the general themes of Advent: penitence (generally expressed more in terms of expectant hope) and royalty.
Christmas is properly understood after having the preparation provided by Advent. In the midst of the secular excesses leading up to Christmas, Advent provides a welcome solace and an opportunity to continually re-orient ourselves to God’s will as we expectantly wait for the true meaning of Christmas: The Incarnation of God the Son.
The New Testament identifies Jesus as the expected Jewish Messiah. Jesus did not come to establish an earthly kingdom, but rather he proclaimed a heavenly kingdom available to Jew and Gentile alike. Even though early Christians understood that Jesus reigned in the Church, we still expect a future finalization of his kingdom. Thus, Christians eagerly awaited the return of Jesus in glory “to achieve the definitive triumph of good over evil,” when he would judge the living and the dead. These prominent Scriptural themes form the basis of our Advent season.
Remember our mystery of faith: Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. He is certainly coming back again. How prepared are you?
Your vicar and friend,
The Revd. Canon Kiri Wakama