An Introduction to Advent
Advent is a season in the church year often considered exclusively as a preparation for Christmas. While this notion is part of the meaning and purpose of Advent, it does not tell the full story. In reality, Advent is much more than just four weeks to prepare for the coming of the Christ child. The season of Advent is about all the comings of Jesus. The word “advent” is from the Latin advenire which means “to come.” This includes, but does not limit itself to, the coming of Jesus when he was born as a man.
There are three distinct comings of Jesus that are in view in the season of Advent. The first coming is in the past—the birth of our Lord Jesus over two thousand years ago in the Israelite town of Bethlehem. The second coming is his coming at the end of history and is the bodily return of Jesus Christ to judge the earth and make for his people the New Heavens and New Earth, where those who trust in Jesus will live forever with him in resurrected and gloried bodies. These two comings, or Advents, of Jesus are indeed glorious, yet there is another coming of Jesus that we should not miss. The third coming refers to our longing for Jesus to appear and visit us now, by his Spirit, to overcome evil, heal our wounds in body and soul, and advance the kingdom of God in this world. When we say the phrase, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Maranatha is an Aramaic word used by Paul in 1 Cor 16:22, which means “Come, Lord!”), we are not only asking for the Lord Jesus to return again at the end of time. We are also asking for Jesus to enter into the dark valleys of our world in the here and now and to intervene in our present situation through the presence and power of his Spirit.
So we see that Advent is about all of the comings of Jesus, whether past, present, or future. In Advent we are looking and longing for the Lord to come today, in our lives and in practical ways to fix the brokenness of this world. How does Christmas fit in? In the Christmas season, we remember the answer to all our longing is found in the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God in the person of Jesus Christ, our Crucified and Risen Lord. Jesus, the Word made Flesh, is the one in whom we must place our trust and ask to come to us. And it is because he has already come to us in time and space that we are able to ask him to bless us with his presence again, both now and in the age to come.
Note: material in this post is adapted from the writing of Pastor Jeff Meyers at Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA), St. Louis