What is Advent and why is it important? Before we dive in, I want you to imagine yourself as the president (or prime minister or head of state) of your country. Ready?

What do Presidents and Advent have to do with one another?

Imagine you, Mrs. President, are visiting a foreign country, flying in with a host of dignitaries and attendants. The plane lands on the airstrip, the stairway is attached, and as the door opens, you step out, hand half raised to wave and greet the waiting crowd,

and you see – no one.

Did they really forgot this important visit? It’s inconceivable! But imagine how much more embarrassing it must be for the country you are visiting. No frantic scramble can make up for the fact that they utterly failed to receive you with due honor. Whatever they manage to quickly put together as a formal reception will be piecemeal, hastily assembled, and lacking the careful composition and foresight that would normally be expanded for guests of honor.

Now, I have never heard of a case where a country’s political leadership forgot about the visit of a foreign dignitary. Probably because they all have a very important tool – a calendar. In a way, Advent is like that.

 

A Brief History – The Origins of the word “Advent”

 

Maybe you found it challenging to imagine yourself as President or Chancellor, and you were wondering what that might have to do with Advent. It might surprise you – as it did me – that originally this time was named “epiphaneia”, and this word means the arrival, presence, or visit of a dignitary, particularly of a king or emperor. (January 6 is still celebrated as Epiphany for that reason.)

 

When Latin took over in the Western church, the name for the weeks leading up to Christmas was called tempus adventus Domini – the time of the arrival of the Lord. Hence we got the name Advent for this season.

Maybe you are interested in Advent trivia such as the fact that until 1917, Advent was a time of fasting in the Roman Catholic Church, comparable to Lent. And that this period once used to range from November 11 until January 6 (so no stuffing yourself with sugar cookies all through December).

 

What is Advent and Why is it Important?

Whether such facts intrigue you or not, one question remains: why have such a time at all? Couldn’t we just celebrate Christmas and be happy about it?

It seems to me that the Christians in the first centuries were at least as wise as we, if not wiser. Maybe they saw the danger of Christmas just sneaking up on us and catching us unprepared. Or maybe they thought along the lines of preparing for an important dignitary, making sure that everything – inwardly and outwardly – was ready for his arrival. How embarrassing it would be having to scramble on the last day, and how shameful for the honoured guest to be treated with such a lack of anticipation!

 

Different Historical Advent Traditions

To be sure, the emphasis varied initially. Some highlighted the miracle of the incarnation, underscoring the unfathomable mystery that God entered humanity. Others placed the focus more on the fact that, just as Jesus came once as a baby, he will come again as king of the universe and bring justice and peace forever

Both are important, and both are much too weighty to ponder on single day, sandwiched in between meal preparations and family gatherings.

A Time to Long and a Time to Celebrate

Which is why we have Advent – a season to let the astounding truths of Jesus’ first and second coming soak into our very souls, to incite in us longing and gratefulness and praise. And a time to prepare ourselves for the joyful celebration. The celebration where we remember Him entering our world and becoming like us. And where we celebrate His impending return in glory.

Thank you to my fantastic husband, Simon Goeppert for this guest post!

If you like his thoughts and writing, be sure to check out our new Advent Devotional!

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