Last year, as I posted a picture of my children on Facebook with the caption "getting ready for Christmas" I received comment post from my cousin Luise in Germany that said "Happy Advent." Hmmm, "Happy Advent, I like sound of that" I mused. "Whatever happened to Advent?" I wondered. Then the very same day I read an article by theologian Diane Butler-Bass called "The War on Advent," which makes the case for recovering the practice in our communities. Well, I hate to break it to Dr. Butler-Bass, but the war is over and it is a total rout (at least in the US). Advent is dead; wounded by a blow from the left as secularists stamped out the ancient and deeper meanings of the season as incompatible with modern political correctness. Right after this, it was maimed by the right waging the nihilistic "War on Christmas," whose rules of combat require the litmus test of saying "Merry Christmas" continually starting at 12:00 AM on the Friday after Thanksgivng. Finally it was finished off by the retailers, who once knocking it down pushed Christmas' border all the way to Labor Day. What was once 12 days is now four months. So Advent is dead. Its passing mourned only by a few liturgy professors and their seminarian acolytes. Too bad, because if you do not grasp Advent, you do not understand what Christmas truly is at all.
Luke 1:45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
God's Word of promise is more wonderful than any of us can imagine. It is the fuel which allows us not only to endure times of trial, but lets us breathe in every moment and realize that life is a gift. Advent is a time to rest in the promises of God. As we quickly learn in life, expectation is often more fun than fulfillment. The people of Israel look back continually as its most meaning time to when they were wandering in the wilderness and the land was only a "promised" one. Advent likewise, is a time to take delight in expectation. In the Bible, faith is always commended during a time of expectation, whether it is Abraham setting out into the wilderness in search of a homeland, or a young mother Mary receiving affirmation from her cousin at what must have been a confusing time. Faith thrives in an atmosphere of expectation. It is where it lives and breathes. It is why these times are so happy.
Advent should be happy (it is not Lent!) as it is focused on God. The sad thing is so many in my community are not happy at all. Their faces show the strain of the rush to get everything done, so perhaps Advent can be grace for you. You don't have to fulfill everyone's wish, or even your own, you can focus on God, and rest in a promise, stop worrying and be happy! The pressure to eradicate Advent comes from those both secular and religious who are just incapable of doing this. These are the folks who will not wait for the time to be fulfilled. They may even believe that it is thier responsibility to make the world right so God can come. Their actions say if things are prepared the right way than it will be all hunky dory. This is actually a pretty inclusive group including some end-time Christians, communists, environmental zealots, and most prevalent this particular time of the year home decorators trying to create "the perfect Christmas."
Galatians 4:4-5 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.
When the Protestant Reformation began it tried to recover the faith reflected in the writings of the Gospels, Paul and the early church of the classical period. It began with a simple premise, the actions of God come first. So it is God who fulfills. The twentieth century theologian Paul Tillich called this "the Protestant principle". So Advent is deeply evangelical, it is nothing more or less than being expectant of the promises of God in Jesus Christ. While this may be a requiem, it is not a lament. I am a Christian, I know that resurrection exists. Every time someone expectantly looks for God to do something in her or his life, there you will find Advent. It will be ever eternal as it is a time of taking delight in the gift of faith, and it is certainly a time to be happy.