Advent: The waiting game
Christmas day, along with Easter day, is the most important day in the Christian calendar. In Western society, it is hard to avoid Christmas… It is everywhere! Filling the shops, the adverts and every conversation possible, it is difficult to avoid Christmas… For most people, Christmas has become a season to celebrate friends, family and all the good things in life. For Christians, Christmas marks the arrival of a new born king, who changed and continues to change everything. But before his arrival, there was a long period of waiting. That is where Advent comes into the scene.
Deriving from the Latin ‘adventus’ meaning to come, Advent focuses on the preparation of the coming of Christ. In the run up to Christmas, most people are getting ready for the big day, be it buying Christmas presents, writing cards to old friends or getting enough food in for Christmas dinner. Often, parts of the Christmas preparation can become a tiring and a bit of a burden, especially when you don’t know what presents to buy for people, you have to write hundreds of cards and half the guests have dietary requirements! We know that it will all be worth it in the end, but my gosh it is exhausting. For Christians like myself, the Christmas preparation involves re-shaping our hearts and minds. Because of this, during the period of Advent, Christians immerse themselves in penance, prayer and preparation.
The most common Advent tradition involves four candles (often miscommunicated as fork handles). A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Though the candles have specific liturgical meanings, the lighting for these candles reminds me that Jesus was a light to the world, bringing joy and hope. In fact, joy and hope are two central themes to Advent. Joy comes in the celebration of the first coming of Christ, which was significant because it represented the ultimate symbol of God’s love for us. Hope, then follows, in the promise of the second coming of Christ, which is significant because it describes God’s glorious return, in which He will consummate His eternal kingdom.
The Advent themes of joy and hope are, I believe, needed now more than ever. In a world filled with increasing political uncertainty and economic insecurity, rising levels of poverty and persecution, it is difficult not to get lost in pessimism. I believe that hope is the entity that allows the possibility of change, in the way that it encourages us to imagine a better life worth striving for. For so many, hope is built on the promise that there is a life worth living in uncertain times and subsequently becomes the driver to bring about transformational change in society. For Christians like me, that hope is in Jesus.
So, this Advent I have decided to keep joy and hope at the centre. I am trying to read the Bible a little more, have more positive conversations will people about social justice and to share some of that Advent hope. Oh, and I still need to buy my Christmas presents…
CCJ Student Leader Alumnus