The season of Advent (which begins December 2) comprises the four weeks prior to the Festival of the Nativity (aka, Christmas). Advent is a time of contemplation and reflection on our longings. So, what do we long for?
The marketplace culture has done a masterful job of defining our longings materially. The time before Christmas is filled with frantic activity, much of it tied to the purchasing of gifts. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the custom of gift exchange as much as anyone. But if these are the things that define our longings and their fulfillment, something is missing; at least for Christian people.
As the culture drives us relentlessly onward (only 35 more shopping days until Christmas!) Advent calls us to slow down and take time to examine what it is we truly long for, to ask ourselves if the balancing act we call our lives is really working. For our tendency is to attach our longings, hopes and dreams to people and things other than the God who has come to us in Jesus Christ. Advent, like all the seasons of the church year, is meant to bring into sharper focus these realities of the life of faith that accompany us all year long.
The texts for the Advent season reflect this great theme of human longing, so real yet often so misplaced. They bring us a back to ourselves, to how it really is with us; frightened and fragile, longing for friendship, companionship, real faith, hope and love, understanding and forgiveness.
The longings that anticipate their fulfillment in the coming of Jesus are best encountered at the Cross. In this respect Advent is what someone once called “the little Lent”. For to face our deepest longings is to be brought, once again, to the foot of the Cross. There we encounter both our deep need and the gracious, crucified Lord in whom our deepest longings will one day be brought to fulfillment and our anxious hearts put to rest.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”