I hear lots of people asking about whether Christ is still in Christmas. Clearly as a culture there a pulling away from Christ in Christmas. However my concern is less with Christ in Christmas – as a church we still have that, and I’m more concerned with making sure we have Christ in Advent. Yes – you read that right – I want to put Christ back into Advent.
At first glance Advent is all about Christ with themes of hope, peace, joy, and love. However so much of our reflection is looking back at the impact of Jesus’ birth. That is an event worthy of our focus, but advent is about so much more than ‘looking back’. We need more than nostalgic celebrations during advent and the cultural season of Christmas. If we believe that Advent is all about looking back towards the time leading up to Jesus birth, we are missing the bigger picture and are essentially taking the Christ out of Advent. We need more than to remember the birth of Jesus and how it changed things for people. We need to reflect on now and our own time of expectation.
Advent is about being a season of waiting. We always think of that to be waiting for Jesus’ birth, and yes that is a part of Advent. However, the church is built on a people who are waiting today. We are waiting for Jesus’ ultimate return. Advent is as much about the second coming and our expectation of Christ’s return as it is about Christ’s first coming as a babe in a manger. In fact I believe we are called during this season to look back at that season of waiting to recognize God’s faithfulness and apply that to our own life and our own waiting.
This doesn’t mean we get rid of our themes of hope, peace, joy or love – it means we expand them beyond the past. We instead take a forward looking view to the hope we have in Jesus to come again. We look forward to the peace that will be fully realized with Christ’s return. Our joy now and in the past pails to the joy we anticipate. Finally, we see the love of God rooted not just in sending Christ as a babe but fully realized in God’s faithfulness of sending Jesus to redeem the world, renewing all things so we can be in right relationship with God through the grace and salvation of Jesus Christ.
It is only when we see advent being about the second coming of Jesus Christ that we begin to recognize the fullness of Christ in the season we celebrate. In a time where the church seems to discuss the second coming less and less, this is the season where we hold it up in our worship so we can be recentered on the promise of God and be a people who wait – in expectation.