"Wealth will increasingly be defined by our ability to go offline whenever we want." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Thoughts
November 30, 2008

Advent

Advent is a season of the Christian calendar that includes the four Sundays before Christmas Day. In this schema, the Christmas season runs from Christmas day until Epiphany, on January 6. Advent is a season of introspection. The Biblical idea of darkness entering the light is often quoted, which is quite apt considering that in […]

Advent is a season of the Christian calendar that includes the four Sundays before Christmas Day. In this schema, the Christmas season runs from Christmas day until Epiphany, on January 6.

Advent is a season of introspection. The Biblical idea of darkness entering the light is often quoted, which is quite apt considering that in the Northern Hemisphere this is a mid-winter festival. It’s a time to consider our failures, our limitations and our need for “salvation.” But, unlike Lent, it is not a season of obsessing about sin. Rather, Advent is an occasion for humility and hopeful introspection, for preparation and anticipation. Advent calls us to wonder if God might not be as far from our everyday experience as we sometimes imagine.

Of course, for many people today Advent does not exist and has been replaced by a voracious consumer period called “Christmas,” the “holiday season” or “I can’t believe it’s that time of year again.” This term starts in mid November (earlier and earlier every year) and runs until the sales end after New Year’s Day. For many this is a depressing time of year; rates of stress, headaches, divorce food poisoning and even suicide rise. There’s a dramatic upsurge in the amount of rubbish we throw out and there are studies that suggest we never really get over the weight gain from overeating, which year on year rises and contributes to our social problem of obesity and obesity related diseases.

The modern consumer season that has replaced Advent is anything but a season of hopeful introspection.

Advent is all about history, memory and truth. The theology of Advent is really a commentary on three stories; Ancient Israel’s hope for a saviour, the birth of Jesus Christ and the hope and expectation that Christians now have of Christ one day returning. Advent gives us a chance to consider this wide sweep of human religious history and ask what it means for our identity today.

We participate in this history through our own memories as year after year we participate in Advent again. Though our context changes and our life moves on we return to stand on the same ground, so to speak and consider the same view – of history and our own experience.

People say Christmas is a “time of family” which is another way of saying it’s when we consider our roots again – the question of where we came from. This returning and remembering stops us from treating biography like an arrow, ever travelling in one direction and never considering the past. Advent brings us back to the truth of who we are and the choices we have made in our lives.

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Responses
Duncan 14 years ago

Fernando, I’ve been thinking about the liturgical calendar recently and realising I know little about it and would like to know and practice it more. So thanks for the advent overview. I think the incarnational aspect is quite compelling and should hopefully be a reminder of the call to us to be incarnational amongst the poor as well?

Fernando Gros 14 years ago

Duncan – I had already gone through a full theological education and experience of ministry before I really started to consider the liturgical calendar. Although I’m not wedded to it, there is a lot of collective wisdom embedded there that we can draw from.

Yes, the incarnational sense of Advent speaks to issues of poverty. I think there is something powerful in the way this huge, sense of expectation and hope is answered in the small, provincial scene around the manger.

Brodie 14 years ago

Fernando – Thanks for pointing out why/how Advent is different from lent. For me I key things about Advent are waiting, longing and hope. It’s so easy in our fast paced cultures to not wait for anything, but in waiting, in not knowing when or how God will answer I am reminded on my dependence on him, and that my longings need to be ‘in him’ for he is our only hope.

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