Advent is a season of the church calendar, the liturgical year that annually fashions our time and rhythm into the shape of the gospel. Over the course of the four Sundays before Christmas, the season of Advent prepares the church for Christmastide—that great celebration of the incarnation—by inviting us into the anticipation of salvation woven into scripture. Originating in at least the 5th century, if not earlier, Advent has been to Christmas what Lent is to Easter: a season of waiting, preparation, and prayer that precedes a time of celebration, joy, and the in-breaking of glory.
Yet Advent is also a disposition. We look backwards in scripture to see the coming of the incarnation, yes, but in Advent we also practice looking forward to Christ’s return. In this, Advent teaches us to wait in darkness. It instructs us to sit in the hope of Christ in the midst of brokenness. It trains us to expect the unexpected, as God comes in God’s way, not ours. It schools us to cry aloud, “how long, O Lord?” while clinging to God’s promises, like this one spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
“When?,” we ask. Soon. Soon and very soon, Jesus will return. Until then, Advent reminds us to keep our lamps burning so that we might hear the watchman when he cries, "the bridegroom is here!”
—Dr. Wen Reagan, Associate Director, Center for Worship and the Arts