The month of November brings thoughts of celebrations with all the trimmings we associate with the holidays. We think of feasting at large tables shared with loved ones, adding festive decorations to our homes, and buying just the right gift for each friend and family member. We plan parties, attend concerts, and embark on trips that take us “over the river and through the woods.” Our moods are lifted by familiar carols, sparkling lights, and Hallmark Christmas specials. It’s the time of year that most of us anticipate with delight, even though we know it will involve a measure of harried rushing about.
But that’s not why I love the season of Advent. Rather than encouraging us to surrender to all the busyness that we’ve come to associate with Christmas preparations, Advent invites us to slow our pace and focus on our spiritual preparation. From the Latin word adventus, advent means “coming.” In the church calendar, Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year. For Christians, the season of Advent, starting twenty-four days before Christmas, bids us to prepare our minds for the coming of Christ, the promised Messiah. It opens our hearts to receive the hope, peace, joy and love that are symbolized by the candles on an Advent wreath.
Since we live in a fallen world, filled with fallen people, including ourselves, it’s often challenging to place our hope in the future. Every day brings news of yet another terrible event somewhere in the world. With media sources that clamor to report negative news, each in the most sensational way, we begin to lose hope that God is still in charge and will ultimately triumph. Sometimes it seems like evil is winning. And what about peace? Is peace on earth even possible? Gradually our joy is depleted as hate seems stronger than love. But that’s exactly why God sent Jesus to replace hate with love. Ours is not the first generation to feel hopeless, joyless, devoid of peace and longing to know God’s love.
“O Come, O Come Immanuel” is one of the best-known Advent carols. The text, originating in the 9th century, speaks to the Israelites’ longing for a savior to release them from captivity. They “mourn in lonely exile” feeling hopeless and without joy. They plead with God to send a Messiah, a Savior who will “bind all peoples in one heart and mind.”
The Israelites were expecting an earthly king to deliver them from captivity. But God had a mightier plan. He sent His son, Jesus, to offer deliverance to all people, deliverance from sin and death.
It’s fundamentally impossible to commercialize the season of Advent. But leave it to retail corporations to give it their best shot with the likes of “Elf on a Shelf” and those Advent calendars that hide a piece of chocolate candy behind each day leading up to Christmas. Not that there’s anything wrong with helping children count down the days. It’s just that the twenty-four days of Advent are about so much more than moving an elf or finding a piece of candy. During the twenty-four days of Advent we are encouraged to connect or re-connect with God in a personal and powerful way through meditation, study, prayer and inspiring music. That’s why I love Advent.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of four award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com.