Advent: The Virtue of Waiting

 

From all of us at Rogue Millennials, we wish you a Happy Advent.

 

I’ll be honest, though; this is the first time I’ve ever really observed Advent in any way. Before this holiday season, it was only ever just something with that candle wreath thing at the Methodist church where my family goes once a year for a beautiful Christmas Eve service.

 

This year, something changed. A podcast I began listening to a few weeks back issued a challenge to give new life to Advent and to stop the encroachment of Christmas upon it. Obviously, I found this idea intriguing.

 

As it turns out, calling the holiday season as a whole “Christmastime” is a rather broad generalization. In church history, Christmastime was made up of the time after Christmas. It was a 12-day celebration beginning on Christmas Day (celebrating the birth of our Lord) and ending on Epiphany (a commemoration of when the Magi discovered Jesus).

*So there’s where the 12 Days of Christmas comes from. You’re welcome.*

 

Advent, in contrast, is made up of the time before Christmas, particularly the four Sundays before. So what is the big deal with Advent anyway? Why observe it? Why care?

 

While Christmas celebrates the arrival of Jesus, Advent commemorates the waiting for the Messiah and the clinging to the promise of a Savior.

 

Advent points us to something that I believe has become a forgotten virtue in our society, and in Western Christianity: the virtue of waiting.

 

In our commercialized consumer society, we scramble during Christmas trying to get everything bought, wrapped, and set. We’re trying to get everyone crossed off our gift list, trying to find the perfect *insert random tchotchke here*, figuring out which ugly sweater should be worn to which party, and making sure the eggnog has enough rum to knock out a pirate.

 

We keep rushing and rushing, and before we know it, Christmas is come and gone, and all we have to show for the season of the birth of our Lord is a garbage bag full of torn wrapping paper, a legion of gifts to be returned or regifted, and a strange mix of relief and regret that the holiday is over.

 

We’re so busy getting every single gift and threatening any retail worker or barista who dares say “Happy Holidays” or place an X in “Merry Christmas” that we miss it completely. The point is gone, that the fulfillment of centuries of hopes, dreams, anguish, and suspense finally came to pass in one magical night.

 

It’s ironic how much emphasis we place on watching for the Second Coming in American Christianity, because we consistently miss the First.

 

That’s where Advent comes in: it reminds us to wait.

The Old Testament is a long compendium of waiting for the promised Messiah, from Genesis to Malachi.

 

When Adam and Eve gave in to sin in the Garden, despite the curses and judgement it brought upon humanity, God gives a declaration of hope in a warning to Satan in Genesis 3:15.

 

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

 

This declaration, often referred to as the “Proto-Evangelium,” many consider the first Messianic prophecy. It declared the eventual defeat of the dark forces that had hijacked God’s creation. And so, the faithful waited.

 

Through Scripture: God raised a people, made covenants with them, brought them to a land, raised their kingdom, and worked toward the promise that the whole world would one day be blessed through them. And so, the faithful waited.

 

In the midst of judgments, exiles, and returns, prophecies were made of the Messiah, the one who would come to bring freedom, justice, and restoration; the one who would suffer, die, and be raised to break the bondage of the curses upon the people. The coming of a King was promised. And so, the faithful waited.

 

Through years of anticipation, conquests, occupations, and silence, the faithful waited.

 

Then an angel visited a teenage virgin in a podunk town in Judea and told of the favor she found with God and the plan for this Messiah to come from her very womb. She and her husband would endure suspicion, whispers, and a long journey to a far off town where all these things would come to pass. And so, the faithful waited.

 

And then, the wait was over. The Messiah arrived.

 

Advent invites us to return to this waiting; the tension, the hopes and dreams pinned on the promise, the longing, the desperation, the yielding. Advent turns our attentions to the work of God, that we may anticipate the coming of the Lord instead of missing it.

 

Advent invites us to cling to hope, to walk in love, to pursue peace, and to await the completion of our joy in the Lord. Advent allows us to wait and build our anticipation, so that when Christmas comes, we can welcome it rather than seeing it suddenly pass by, and celebrate it with newfound fervor. It invites us to await the First Coming of the Lord all over again, and in doing so, reminds us of how to prepare for His Second. It invites us to long for Him and seek Him, and to prepare our hearts to receive Him.

 

And so, we wait…

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15 thoughts on “Advent: The Virtue of Waiting

Add yours

  1. Good mornin. ☺
    I’m not familiar with this, and I’ve only heard of it recently. And this is the first explanation of this that I’ve read.
    You did a very good job of explaining it too. For a man like myself who’s unfamiliar with advent, after reading this once, I understand.

    And I celebrate any exalting of Jesus, so I’m not against what you described here.
    But doesn’t it seem a little odd? (Im not saying that to be unkind in any way).
    But to sort of foster a state of mind to await that which we know to have already happened?

    And good mornin to you.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Lee. It’s been quite an experience for me with this being the first time I’ve given attention to Advent.

      As to your question, I would compare the idea of waiting for the birth of Christ to how we remember the death of Jesus in the Eucharist. In Advent, we place ourselves in the anticipation of the coming of the Savior, of awaiting the Light to break the darkness, and experiencing that much more joy the arrival of the King. May you experience much joy and blessing this holiday season.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful, Adam. As a life-long church-person raised in the Episcopal Church and for nearly 40 years an Episcopal priest, I’ve been wedded to the church calendar and the seasonal themes and progressions as a way of living and moving through time and space. Hence, much, no, all of what you write resonates deeply within me and speaks to my heart and soul. Again, my thanks, Paul

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Reverend. That is indeed high praise. As this is my first go-round with Advent, any advice or input you could offer would be very appreciated, considering you are a professional in the field. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi brother, this is meant in kindness, because I doubt you intended what you stated here, (I goof all the time).
        But I need to call your attention to the fact that you called that man “reverend.”
        That’s not a biblical title for any preacher, and we’re NEVER to revere man, only God.
        Hey, we’re not even supposed to use titles to address people, but “reverend” is an abomination for a title for man.

        I hope this helps

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      2. I called him reverend as he is a priest in the Episcopal Church, and as such, did so out of courtesy and respect. As he’s done the work required to garner that title, I consider it in the same vein as Doctor, Esquire, Professor, et cetera.

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      3. While I see your point, in examining the text, I find this not to be a rule against the use of titles of acknowledgement to those who have earned then, but as a condemnation the the Pharisees who parade and posture themselves specifically to be lauded with titles. By the logic you seem to use this text in, no one should call a doctor Doctor, a military officer by their rank, or a person on government as Mayor, Senator, President, etc. Jesus’ words seem to condemn not the titles, but the behavior of being lauded. I would like it to a Ph.D. holder who constantly demands people referring to him as Doctor. Yet, in the sense of referring to Reverend Abernathy, I do not believe this scripture applies in that sense. Acknowledgment of an earned office is one thing. Fishing for praise and acclamation is another, which is what I believe Jesus condemns the Pharisees for in that text.

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      4. This will be my last comment about this.

        The first scripture reference I cited was from Job. It had nothing to do with Pharisees. It says flat out to not use flattering titles for man.
        No one earns “reverence.” That is robbing God of His glory, and is specifically disobeying God.
        You either respect what God said about this or you don’t.

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      5. I was referring to Matthew 23:1-12 text. Plus, there’s a clear difference between “reverend” and “reverence”. One is an active acknowledgement of the glory of God. The other is an earned title for clergy in terms of service and study.

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      6. I thought this sort of legalistic thinking went out of style decades ago. Jesus asked us to look to the spirit of each Scripture and to avoid using Scripture as a legalistic letter-of-the-law way to micromanage other people’s behavior. He constantly blasted the Pharisees for doing so – so this has everything to do with Pharisaical trends in modern Christianity. Jesus warns us about using pompous titles, particularly for ourselves, as they rob glory from God. That is far from a ban on any use of any type of title. Paul used titles to distinguish different ranks of leadership men like Titus and Timothy were to appoint. In most Christian traditions, the use of titles for people who have dedicated their lives in service to God actually brings glory to God. Paul himself described qualifications for distinct classes of leaders, such as elders and deacons and ministers. The communicate these qualifications he had to – you guessed it – use titles.
        The issue isn’t “respect what God said about this or don’t.” It’s an issue of properly interpreting what God said and what God meant. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this. I still call my dad my father, and I still respect church leaders by calling them my pastor. And this brings glory to God, not robbing him of it – he blessed me with a father and he blessed us with noble men and women who step up into leadership. You can pretend like you’re the only one who respects Scripture because you don’t call anyone anything other than “hey dude” – but it’s really an issue of interpretation and keeping to the spirit of Christ, not the letter of the law. God be praised and glorified for the pastors he placed in my life!

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      7. That’s definitely one way to interpret it. It is a minority view among Believers historically and in the present world, but it’s an important one to consider. Maybe the vast majority of denominations today that accept titles to distinguish their leaders from the flock should hold those titles extremely lightly. We are all, after all, the priesthood of Believers. Christianity doesn’t have a caste system. We are all ministers. Thanks for sharing a challenging thought!

        Like

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