Advent: waiting for the Lord
In the past people used to ask, "When will the Messiah come?" The ancient writings had made reference to Him. He came "when the fullness of the time had come". Today Christians ask, "When will the Lord return?" Advent is intended to remind us of this.
The calendar describes the pre-Christmas season as “Advent”, which derives from the Latin word adventus, meaning “arrival”. Christians look to the celebration of Jesus’ birth and prepare themselves for it over the space of four Sundays of Advent—Christmas is just ahead.
That the Lord was born—and thus became Man—precisely at Christmas is a very old convention. It was in the seventh century that Pope Gregory the Great initiated the tempus adventūs Domini in its present form. The four Sundays were intended to symbolize the 4000 years since mankind’s fall into sin in Paradise.
This did not go without debate, and so mediation was required. What is known as the Strasbourg Advent debate was finally resolved in the year 1038—when it was decided that Advent should indeed last for four weeks. In those years in which the celebration of Christmas falls on a Monday, the fourth Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve. The Council of Trent (1545–1563) reinforced this ruling.
Christ is coming again!
However, Advent is more than just a designation for the pre-Christmas season. After all, Advent is also to serve as a reminder of the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ wants to return. Concerning this, the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church states the following in Section 3.4.15: “The promise of Jesus Christ's return is a central element of New Testament proclamation. ... Christ will come again and take His own unto Himself from among the dead and the living. This event is not the Last Judgement, but rather the rapture of the bride of Christ to the marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19: 7).”
The gospel relates of this, the early Apostles wrote of it, and our faith is founded upon the death and resurrection of the Lord—as well as His return. Concerning this, the Catechism goes on to say: “The cited Bible passages speak of the return of Christ as an event that is imminent and certain to occur, which will bring salvation and fellowship with Christ and thus comfort in hardship and distress (Romans 8: 17–18). Thus the promise of Christ's return constitutes glad tidings for all mankind.”
A time of hope
For this reason, Advent is also a time of hope. Many divine promises, which God had made long before, were fulfilled with the birth of Christ. Therefore we see Christmas as more than merely a celebration characterized by contemplation and custom, but rather as a confirmation that God always keeps His promises. This strengthens us in the certainty of faith that soon all promises related to the second coming of Christ will also be fulfilled.
The Advent season inspires us to prepare for the return of Christ in reverence and profound joy, just as it says in a familiar hymn: “Lift up your heads, you mighty gates, behold, the King of glory waits! The King of kings is drawing near, the Saviour of the world is here. Salvation and new life He brings, therefore the earth is glad and sings: our Maker, we sing praise, for great are all Your ways.”
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