Here we are in the midst of the hustle and bustle of another—as people like to say—“holiday season.” All around us are the advertisers and shopping, the obligatory Christmas concerts and parties; we are involved in all the preparations for the home, the card sending, the cookie baking; we have all the Christmas specials on TV; all these things that are to make this “the most wonderful time of year.” There’s so much to do and yet so little time, and yet the church calls us to observe the season of Advent.
So what is the season of Advent? Advent means “coming” and serves as a time of preparation to welcome Jesus, our Promised Savior. Our celebration of Christmas remembers Jesus’ coming into the world to be our Savior; and in Advent we remember that Jesus, who came as a Baby born of the Virgin, still comes to us today in His Word and Sacrament. In Advent we also place ourselves in the shoes of the Old Testament saints as we wait for Jesus’ promised return in glory on the Last Day.
Advent has a two-fold emphasis. First, it is a time of joyous remembrance of Jesus’ Coming. Second, Advent is a time to “clean house” spiritually in preparation for Jesus’ Second Coming. With these two themes, the Scripture readings during Advent lead us to introspection and renewal and great joy and celebration as we head toward Christmas.
But Advent is not one more thing on the “to do” list. Instead, the church with her season of Advent is the calm in the midst of the storm. Here we quietly hear and meditate on our Lord, His work, His graces, His blessings. Here we are lifted out of the day in, day out busyness to focus our attention on what is truly vital—sin and our Savior from sin.
The thing is, the world around us thinks that the most vital things are always found in all the outward trappings; that Christmas has its true joy and fulfillment when we do/ are involved with what is around us and we are in the midst of: sounds, activity, and sentimentality.
But the Church, Advent, calls us away from this to a quiet meditation on our Lord, His grace, His work, His salvation, His return. She calls us to a time of prayer, meditation and repentance.
Notice the preparation of the world, what the world thinks makes for a perfect celebration—outward things / trappings; notice the Church’s preparation now for a joyous Christmas is an inward preparation of the heart. Which way prepares us best for a joyous Christmas?