Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which means the holiday* season is now in full swing. As a child, Advent was my favorite time of year, mostly because it meant the decorations were going up and Christmas was right around the corner. I appreciated traditional Advent hymns like “The Advent of our God” (St. Thomas arrangement) and “Hark, the Glad Sound” (Chesterfield arrangement) almost as much as Christmas carols.
Advent is the first season of the church calendar, and it’s also an odd time of year for the church, for not only do the traditional readings bring us to the arrival of the Christ child (the coming of John the Baptist and the pregnancy stories of Mary), but also touch on Christ’s second coming. For example, in church, today’s gospel reading was the prophetic section of Mark 13. In Advent, we remember Christ’s first coming, celebrated at Christmas, and anticipate his second coming (or “Second Advent”) as well, where He will finish making the world anew. Christmas we have a date for (yes, it’s in some dispute), but that Second Advent has proven a little more elusive. Evangelicals in particular (see Left Behind) have made a mint in the business of trying to nail its date down, but their premillienial dispensationalism with its charts and graphs is a minority position in both the church today and historically (it only seems like a majority in the U.S.). Most traditional Christians know Christ is coming back, but don’t put too much thought into when, accepting that the information is above their pay grade.
The traditional color of Advent is blue–the color of hope, pastor said today. Hope realized on Christmas morning with the coming of the Christ child (and presents) and hope of what’s yet to come when Christ returns to make the world perfect and peaceful once again. May your holiday season be filled with all kinds of hope, joy, and happiness.
See also Russ Ramsey on what it’s like living between Christ’s “Two Advents.”
* “Holiday season” of course referring to the period between Thanksgiving and New Years, as opposed to the “Christmas season,” which is the 12 days of Christmas starting December 25th.