If branding and marketing tag lines had been a thing when Advent found its way into the church calendar, the church of the late sixth century could have used: “Advent: At Least It’s Not Lent!”
It’s true—December just feels more exciting than February-March, and the four Sundays of Advent seem to get to the point more efficiently than what can seem like the 40-day slog of Lent. Besides, who’s ever heard of fasting from sweets in the weeks leading up to Christmas?
But both Advent and Lent share an important—if at times challenging—characteristic: they offer us church folk a chance to carve out deliberate spaces to look inward to our own spiritual state and outward to the person and work of Jesus.
We remind ourselves in Advent that we live in a waiting room of sorts. We have the fortunate lot in life to not have to wait for the coming of Jesus to earth—we know it happened and we still have the eyewitness accounts! But, ah… that second coming. No one knows when it will be. Even Jesus-on-earth said he didn’t know the hour.
So we wait. And wait. And wait. Each Advent that comes and goes is a poignant reminder that the kingdom is (still!) not yet fully present among us.
But that’s no reason to give up hope and stop waiting. On the contrary, we wait all the more eagerly. Luke 12 says:
Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. …You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
To our waiting we add watching and making ready.
The master has not yet returned, and our lamps too often dim when we forget to tend to them in the rush of other commitments. This Advent, may we keep our lamps brightly lit, persistent in our waiting, watching, and making ready for the coming of our King.
The above is adapted from an Advent reflection I wrote as part of a devotional our church’s Deacons prepared for our congregation this Advent.