We are in the Advent season, but in full disclosure, I never celebrated Advent until I became a pastor. My first exposure to Advent came when the senior pastor asked me how I was planning to teach the young people of the church about Advent. I quickly had to learn about Advent Wreath, Advent Candles, Advent Calendar, Advent Hymns, Advent Readings, Advent texts, and the emphasis on Advent Season.
Until then, Christmas was about the tree, decorations, food, and of course presents, but nothing more. Yes, I am 4th generation Presbyterian and I grew up going to church on Christmas Eve, but being an immigrant at 11 years old meant that the memories of spiritual Christmas in Korea were quickly replaced by secular X-Mas of materialism of U.S. Christmas was about Santa.
So what is Advent?
Advent is adopted from Latin adventus meaning “coming, or arrival”, translating Greek word parousia. In New Testament this word is used exclusively in reference to the second coming of Christ reflecting the focus of New Testament on the return of Jesus which they believed was imminent. The earliest date of documented celebration of Advent was in 480 AD and it was for 40 days, similar to Lent. The Eastern Orthodox church still celebrates it starting on November 11th, two days after celebration of St. Martin and it is called Nativity Fast. It initially began with people fasting 3 days out of a week, but some even fasted entire 40 days.
When the Advent became only for 4 weeks was not documented, but
The biblical passages that are used during Advent are the verses that is referred to the end times which emphasized the importance of people being spiritually ready to be acceptable to God. Thus Advent traditionally was a somber time, not a time of celebration. This was due to the concept of waiting was for the final judgment, not for the joy of God being in our midst.
In modern time, we do not have a meaningful ritual for celebrating Advent, but we have commercial rituals: Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which seems get longer each year. We now celebrate the season before Christmas with parties and shopping, but this is a modern phenomenon, which the traditionalists would find in great disdain.
So as we go through this Advent season, let me be more than shopping. More than poinsettias, more than Santa, but let us prepare ourselves for Emmanuel, God with Us.