Why We Observe Advent

Why We Observe Advent December 5, 2011

Why We Observe Advent

Our family had several Christmas traditions when I wasgrowing up: stockings on December 6 for Saint Nick’s Day, attendance at aperformance of A Christmas Carol at the historic Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, Christmas Evewith the extended family at my grandparents’ house, and of course, the standardtree, gifts, cookies, and programs at school and church. But one year, myparents surprised us all with the announcement that, beginning the Sunday afterThanksgiving, we were going to “observe Advent,” complete with a homemadewreath, candles, readings, and scripted prayers. “Hmmm” was the profoundthought that crossed my adolescent mind. “We’ll see how this goes.” Typically skepticalhigh school guy.

Perhaps you share the ambivalence of my former days,especially if you’re not from a liturgical church background. (How can youtell? If you’ve never heard of a “Hanging of the Greens” service, it’s safe tosay your church background is not liturgical!) So why would we observe Adventas a church these four Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas?

First, it provides us with a unique opportunity todemonstrate our solidarity with other Christian churches all over the world andthroughout history. We might not believe or practice exactly the same on everyparticular, but we do share a common hope and joy in the coming of the Savior!

Second, it reminds us of the need to prepare our ownhearts for Jesus’ return. As we retell the Christmas story through our Adventreadings, we’re always reminded of the many people who were so regrettablyunprepared for the coming of the Messiah that night in Bethlehem, even though they knew he was goingto come eventually. It’s a helpful opportunity to examine ourselves to makesure the same thing doesn’t happen to us when He comes to earth the secondtime. 

And finally, it helps keep the true meaning ofChristmas before us throughout the whole season. In a culture where Christmasis so heavily commercialized and secularized, it’s a welcome relief topunctuate the madness with four opportunities for reflection and refocusing onthe real reason for the season.

        So join believers across town andacross the centuries. Prepare your heart for the Savior’s return. And rejoicethat Emmanuel has come.