“The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
In a year so crazy the phrase, “It’s 2020” has become a synonymous with bad news, many of us are caught in a quandary. We know we ought to be feeling the joy and excitement of Christmas. Yet we are tired… and maybe a bit nervous. Instead of celebrating the holiday season, we look at December with a wary eye, wondering what final one-two punch 2020 will throw our way.
Yet into this unpredictable year enters Advent: a time of waiting, darkness, and long, deathly silent nights. Before the joy of Christ’s birth, when hope is fulfilled and the world set right… we sit, anxious and apprehensive. We wait.
Did you know our early Christian brothers and sisters celebrated Advent in a similar way? Indeed, Advent and Christmas historically had very little connection. Instead of Advent being a season to celebrate Jesus’ birth, 6th century Roman Christians connected Advent with the second coming of Christ. For forty days before the new year, they prayed, fasted and repented, longing for the time when the Savior would return to condemn evil and bring justice and peace.
This longing feels as poignant to us today as it must have felt for the early Christians in Rome. In fact, Rico Tice, founder of Christianity Explored Ministries and Minister of Evangelism at All Souls, Langham Place, spoke with us about what Advent means to his congregation this year:
“I think one thing that is huge for COVID is Advent. It’s four weeks of waiting for Jesus to come. In COVID, we’re in a time of waiting as well. We are in limbo, because of COVID and for Americans, limbo in other areas like the election results. Resources around Advent have got to be so relevant at this moment.”
With that in mind, Rico is using Advent as an opportunity to daily encourage his congregants with Scripture and devotionals that speak about waiting and the tension between frustration and hope.
Perhaps Advent can be a season of quiet encouragement for you and your church as well. If the hype of modern Christmas celebrations feels like too much this year, we invite you to lean into the stillness and waiting of the Advent season. May you bring your anxiety before God and leave with two truths: Jesus has already come and Jesus is coming again. The path of hope has already been prepared for us. We walk that path not with foolish delusions about how wonderful our world currently is, but with a grounded promise that it won’t always be this way. Good things are in store because the greatest gift has already come: Jesus Christ.
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” – Romans 8:24-25
Watch Rico’s talk on Christmas and COVID here: