“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3
If you look around your neighborhood, you might think that Christmas has come early. Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier each year with retail establishments putting out Christmas decorations after Halloween or even earlier. But it is not the Christmas season, that season does not begin until the 24th of December, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is Advent, and if you skip it, you are missing out on a beautiful time of the year.
Advent is a time of expectation. Advent is the season of waiting. Advent is the season of patience. Advent is a time of spiritual preparation when darkness falls earlier, and we await the light to come and brighten the darkness. Advent is the season when we hear the prophecies of the birth of Jesus Christ, and it is the season for us to get our hearts ready for that time.
The great Russian/American theologian Alexander Schmemann referred to the Advent season as the Winter Pascha and linking it back to the time of Lent that is celebrated just before Easter. Ancient Church customs called for a period of fasting and repentance during this time of year, a tradition still maintained by Christians of the Eastern Orthodox traditions. Advent has, since the earliest times of the Church, been seen as this time of preparation and we have lost that in our present day.
Each of the four Sundays of this season has a theme, hope (Isa 60:2), peace (Isa 9:6-7), love (1 John 4:9-11), and joy (John 15:9-11) and in many churches a candle is lit for each of those Sundays as a reminder of how we, as the light of Christ, are to drive the darkness out of the world. These themes and their associated Scripture passages call us to repentance, but they also call us to action.
This time of year can be busy, but the call of Advent is to slow down, just a little, and focus on what the coming season of Christmas is all about, the Birth of our Savior. Slow down, and meditate if only for a few moments each day and enjoy Advent.