A Christmas Hope
The “Season of Advent” is different from the “Season of Christmas.” Though not many may care about difference, there is an important distinction to be made that is essential to our faith.
Advent is the season that begins four Sundays before Christmas Day, and then the “Season of Christmas” is the time after Christmas day until Epiphany (about 13 days) when the Magi present their gifts. This distinction is essential because it helps us understand who Jesus really is and what Jesus does by his coming into the world. We cannot celebrate the true meaning of Christmas without recognizing the true meaning of Advent first.
Though the Christmas season on a secular level may start around Halloween, the Advent Season specifically starts four Sundays before Christmas and is solely focused on awaiting Christ’s arrival, both as a baby and also in his second coming; it is about anticipation of something greater yet to come. In other words, Advent is a time to admit the world is not perfect, there are problems we cannot solve, and that we need a savior to intervene in our lives.
When celebrate Jesus’ birth weeks or months early, we are not really accepting our need for a savior. We simply want to have Christmas early. There is nothing really wrong with that if one understands the necessity for Jesus’ birth. However, for most of us, celebrating Christmas before December 25 is like decorating, having friends over and eating meals for your birthday during the few weeks leading up to your birthday. You can still have a party on the day, but the whole point is that before that day, you are technically not a year older yet.
The Season of Advent is not something we can shuffle away or ignore. For without Advent, without acknowledging the individual and collective need we have for a savior, Christmas becomes shallow and stripped of substance. Advent prepares our hearts for the true meaning of Christmas. Advent reminds us that the world we see is not how God intends to leave us. Advent is when we can cry out to God for Jesus to come again, in the last days to make all things right. Christmas is God’s answer to Advent’s call.
In Advent God did the unthinkable to save us. Why would he become a human, take our sin upon his shoulders and die for us? Why promise to return to make all things right? If we only celebrate, we miss the whole reason we are celebrating. When we slow down our hearts and focus on our need for a savior, then when God ultimately sends his one and only Son on Christmas morning, it really is reason to celebrate!