Having been raised in a traditional church, I thought I was familiar with Advent. I thought it was all about Christ’s first coming as a baby in Bethlehem. During the Advent Season I would read the Christmas story and think about Jesus’ first coming in its historical context.
Imagine my surprise,when a few years ago, I learned that is not all that Advent is about. I learned that the first two Sundays of Advent anticipate Christ’s Second Coming. That got me to thinking about the Season…what is the real history of Advent?
I would like to quote from an article entitled “What Is Advent?” by Justin Holcomb on Christianity.com.:
“The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus.
By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.”
In summary, the early Church understood that we need to prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming. New believers would prepare for baptism and celebrate Christ’s coming into their hearts. By the 6th century, Christians would use the season to prepare their hearts for Christ’s Second Coming. From medieval times forward, Christians would prepare their hearts during Advent anticipating His Second Coming while also remembering his first coming as a babe in Bethlehem.
For me, the bottom line is, “Am I preparing my heart for Christ’s coming?” As the Advent season begins this Sunday, am I thinking about the possibility that Christ could return at any moment? Am I prepared to meet Him or am I distracted by the busyness of the season? Those are the real questions I need to ask myself. I hope you will take some time during this season of Advent to ask yourself those questions also.
Have a Blessed Advent!