I’m sure I must have heard about Advent growing up, but it is not something that I ever remember noticing or thinking about. It certainly wasn’t something that was emphasized in my church tradition. Christmas was, but that’s not quite the same thing. We were often reminded to not get lost in the presents and decorations, and to keep our eyes on the true meaning of the season, but that’s slightly different than Advent.
The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.” It is the opportunity for Christians to not only celebrate the birth of Jesus but to remember the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we join in the “waiting” process.
I like how St. Bernard talked about the “three advents” of Christ. He named as first that advent which has already happened in historical time and space and which we now commemorate each Christmas, the one in which Christ entered the world through the womb of Mary to “seek and to save that which was lost”. The third and final advent is based on what the Bible calls the parousia, the advent in which Christ will return and to take us to himself. St. Bernard then referred to the second, or middle, advent as the “time of visitation” by which Christ is now present and active in each of our lives. It is the waiting in everyday moments of life. It is the waiting for healing, for restoration, for courage, for patience, for mercy, for love.
I didn’t pay much attention to Advent growing up, but I’ve come to really enjoy and appreciate what it represents. Something as simple as “waiting” can be a very powerful and transformative exercise.
So here’s what I’ve committed to do. Every time I am waiting for something this Christmas season – whether i’m on hold, standing in a line, or waiting for my kid to finish one of his epically long sentences – I am choosing to reflect on Advent. I am thinking about the ways I am waiting for God, waiting for transformation, waiting for renewal.
Here’s to hoping that you too find a way to make this Advent season a meaningful opportunity to connect with God!