What is Advent?

This was originally written for LRBC on December 24 2017.

Last December a friend gave me a handout written by Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury (top position of the worldwide Anglican church leadership). It was about ‘Rediscovering Advent’. Being from the more ‘low-church’ and ‘Scripture-alone’ end of the Christian spectrum, this was something I’d not really known about before. Advent, it turns out, is not about the countdown to Christmas but rather the countdown to the coming of Christ. Waiting and expectation is the key thing that Advent is about as a lead up to Christmas. It highlights the Old Testament prophetic promises and plans for God’s coming kingdom, which themselves make the Nativity more than just an interesting story about the birth of a baby.

In this respect it is unfortunate in New Zealand that Christmas coincides with the summer break. As December progresses there is a great and stressful rush of busyness to get everything finished before schools, businesses and homes close down and everyone takes a holiday (that’s in addition to preparations for food and presents and family gatherings). We are too busy to put ourselves in sync with Advent.

Advent would have us wait with patient but eager expectation, much like those who were waiting for the promised Christ to come into the world. It also asks us not to celebrate Christmas early. In fact, the traditional church calendar made the time for celebrating Christmas last all the way to the FIFTH of January! So rather than having all the Christmas parades and paraphernalia up throughout December and even November, we instead should save them for the time beginning at December 25th and ending well after after New Years. Before then we foster and enjoy faith-filled waiting.

It is a very different way to do Christmas, and completely out of sync with the usual Kiwi summer schedule, but it is something that could be great if we could find our own ways to put this into practice.