Advent-Looking Forward in Anticipation

selective focus of purple candle
Photo by George Becker

The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor, and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When I was young, I thought Advent was a ritual in which only the Catholics took part. At the time, my best friend’s family attended the Catholic church. My family attended a Baptist church. They acknowledged Advent; we did not.

And there was an 11-12 year old’s logic.

The Southern Baptist church in which I grew up did not practice Advent customs, so that further solidified my erroneous belief. However, many years later, after reading several books by Henri Nouwen, a now deceased Catholic priest and educator, I began to see the value of a deeper spirituality. Furthermore, I later attended a Catholic university, which offered a Theology degree in conjunction with a local Presbyterian seminary. These experiences, together with other similar ones, are what taught me the richness of Advent reflection.

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Advent Means Coming

Before the turkey has fully digested from Thanksgiving Day, the pressures and stress of the Christmas season begin to build. It’s very easy to become overwhelmed with the extra activities, engagements and shopping that are placed into an already full schedule.

The weekend after Thanksgiving is also the weekend Advent begins, each week devoted to a different theme:

  • Hope (or promise)
  • Preparation (waiting or prophecy)
  • Joy (peace)
  • Love (adoration)

The purpose of the weekly themes is to pull us aside, calling us to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ, the reason we have Christmas. He came as a baby; He fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 9:2, 6-7. God’s people had waited 700 years for the fulfilment of His first coming. Jesus brings joy and offers peace beyond our understanding.

And He is coming again one day for His beloved Church.

Oh, come let us adore Him!

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Photo by lilartsy

The Waiting of Advent

Advent is also about waiting. As children wait in excited anticipation for Christmas, we wait for God alone, (Psalm 62:5-8.) We no longer wait and hope for the promised messiah, as Israel did. He has come!

Yet, His coming did not solve all of our problems, ease every fear, wipe away each tear. No, we remain in this world facing trials, experiencing pain and heartache, questioning at times where God has gone. Wrestling with Him in prayer.

So we wait…

We wait for His deliverance. We tarry in faith, trusting that our times are truly in His hand, (Psalm 31:13-16.) And we watch for His coming again to make all things new.

This isn’t a resigned or hopeless waiting. No; think again of children who wait with anticipation for Christmas morning. A believer’s waiting is infused with hopeful expectation. Moreover, He who promised is faithful, therefore, our hope rests securely in Him.

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Here and Now

Advent causes us to look back at the first coming of Jesus – His birth. This season also calls us to eagerly anticipate, look forward to His second coming – when He fulfills His promise to come and make all things new. In addition, Advent challenges us to look within and ask how we can draw closer to Jesus now.

We live in the present, or in the here and now, as the late Henri Nouwen wrote in 1994. In fact, Jesus came as Immanuel, God with us.

The real enemies of our life are the “oughts” and the “ifs.”  They pull us  backward into the unalterable past and forward into the unpredictable future.  But real life takes place in the here and now.  God is a God of the present.  God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful or painful.   When Jesus spoke about God, he always spoke about God as being where and when we are.  “When you see me, you see God.  When you hear me you hear God.”  God is not someone who was or will be, but the One who is, and who is for me in the present moment.  That’s why Jesus came to wipe away the burden of the past and the worries for the future.  He wants us to discover God right where we are, here and now.

Henri Nouwen, Here and Now, quoted from

Have you found Jesus where you are?

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Photo by David Dibert on

The Greatest Gift of Advent

We reflect on Advent one brief time a year. It allows us a season to consider the sacrifice for Jesus in His first coming. Furthermore, Advent reminds us of the profound hope we have of His second coming.

However, the greatest gift of Advent is that God is with us now and forever. He is not a God who is distant or aloof. We don’t have to beg for His attention or wonder if He cares. In fact, it was God’s idea to seek after us!

He is Immanuel.

God with us.

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