Christmas has stolen the Advent mystique. The loud noise and busyness of Christmas has eclipsed the symbolism of darkness awaiting dawn that comes with the message of Advent. Hope in the night, is what we want and need, not glitzy commercialism.
For many Christians who are unfamiliar with the Church calendar where the season of Advent begins, do not realise that when simply removing Christmas from the Bible, you only lose three chapters (that includes the doctrine of the incarnation). But removing Advent, you lose half the Old Testament and most of the New. Jews and Christians have always lived by the story of God’s order appearing within the world’s confusion and God’s fiery light burning away the shadows. The New Testament expresses the Old Testament imagery of God breaking into world history, to speak of what will happen on ‘the day of our Lord Jesus Christ’. Understanding Advent correctly will give us a complete understanding of Christ the human being to Christ the cosmic being.
But why? And what are we to hope for? Advent has its equivalents of shepherds and wise men, clouds, trumpets, angels, and cosmic catastrophe — a Christian version of Star Wars and Apocalypse Now, easily making us think that all this is science fiction and make-believe.
It isn’t. It speaks of the time when the mist that hangs in the centre of reality, between heaven and earth, will be burnt away. Our present reality, will be confronted with that other Reality, and for some it will bring utter shame and for others it signals the realisation of the hope they have been carrying each year as the season of Advent comes around.
For the born-again Christian, Advent has already happened. What we ought to celebrate at Christmas is the story of heaven opened, glory unveiled, and God’s unfolding redemptive plan fulfilled both past, present and future. Advent, is the end of the church year, as well as the beginning. Those who are awaiting God’s majesty in all His fullness and love are constantly sustained by Him when they reflect on His first appearing.
By waiting in readiness, Jesus’ warnings about His imminent return brings a greater shame on the unbelieving and unprepared. The watchful hope of faithful is called to further vigilance. To have faith in God’s future is to see why it is vital to stay attentive and to continue to be involved in good works in the present. Christmas has become comfortable. Advent calls us to stay awake.