I've been thinking a lot about why I am so drawn to the season of Advent. Is it because it's so fresh to me, having not observed it for the first twenty-five years of my life? Is it because it's the trendy "Ancient-Future" thing to do? Is it because I'm super mellow, which fits nicely with the mood of the season? Is it even necessary at all?
Instead of taking the time to write a dissertation of my own defending Advent, I'd like to share a couple resources I have recently come across that have helped me identify and articulate why this season is so important to me. I'll do this in two separate blogposts.
The first is a short, very accessible e-book written by Mark D. Roberts, entitled Discovering Advent. In the book he talks about how he wasn't always a lover of Advent, but grew to love it. Just before spending the last half of the book laying our some practical guidelines for observing Advent, he hits on one of the most common responses he (and I) get when we talk about our intentional practice of Advent: "But Is Advent Biblical?"
He begins the chapter by saying,
In fact, you can't turn to a place in the Bible and find specific teaching on Advent or a command to set aside the days prior to Christmas as a season of waiting, hoping, and yearning. Of course, you can't find in Scripture any instruction on celebrating Christmas or Easter either. ...Some Christians believe we should only use in our worship and devotion that which is specifically commanded in Scripture. This eliminates not just Advent, but the other popular Christian holidays as well.
He goes on to say,
I believe that we are free in Christ to do many things that are not specifically taught or modeled in Scripture. ...Yet, I do want to live my life in a way that is consistent with biblical teaching. Is Advent biblical in this broader sense? Could the observance of Advent help you and me grow in faith in a way that aligns with biblical revelation? (my emphases)
This last question, to which I answer with a resounding YES, is why we are leading our church into an intentional observance of Advent, both in our corporate worship and in our homes. Growth in faith and alignment with Christ aren't things that naturally happen in our lives without order and effort. We observe Advent (and the rest of the Christian Year) because it aligns us with the story of Jesus. It provides a framework for us to draw near to God, where we can be transformed. Otherwise, who are we drawing near to? What are we orienting our lives around this season? We can't not be giving ourselves over to something. We are always spending our time and directing our desires toward something or someone.
Mark Roberts then walks us through several passages of Scripture that call us into practices and postures associated with the great themes of Advent: waiting and preparing for the coming of the Messiah. We do the things we do during Advent, focus on the things we do, because the Scriptures lead us in this way, and because it makes sense to us (and to the early believers who began our Advent practices) to do so during this time of year.
So, though it's correct to say that Advent itself is not taught in Scripture, and therefore Christians are free to observe it or not, it is equally correct to say that the emphases of Advent are thoroughly biblical. If the traditions of Advent help us focus more on the Lord, get in touch with our need for him, replenish our hope, and celebrate Christmas with greater meaning and depth, then I'm all [for] it.
How does intentionally observing Advent help you, your family, your church grow in faith and align with Christ during this time of year? What kind of resistance to Advent do you experience in your own heart or in your conversations with other Christians?