For the parish pastor leading their congregation today, the season of Advent can be a very challenging season to celebrate because of the enormous cultural pressures that impact the church. Because of the intense commercial and secular impact the Christmas season presents, there is little time for Advent ... no time for singing Advent carols ... no time for Advent candles ... little time for Advent services ... no time to wait. The Christmas tree must be put up as quickly as possible. The Christmas songs must be sung at worship all during December. We need to get on with Christmas now, not in four weeks.

The word Advent comes from the Latin word “adventus,” meaning coming, which is actually a translation of the Greek word “parousia.” Many Biblical scholars believe that during the fourth and fifth centuries, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians which would typically come at the Feast of Epiphany on Jan. 6. Epiphany was the early church’s celebration of God’s coming to us as a human being. Theologically, this is what is known as the incarnation.

When the church began to celebrate the season of Advent, it was all about preparation and waiting. By the sixth century, Christians had connected Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they were thinking of, was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem. Instead, it was Christ’s 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.

Why do we have a season of Advent? The simple answer is that Advent provides a very important focus for Christians. With its focus on preparation, waiting and reflection, Advent makes the Christmas season all the more meaningful.

Waiting is a gift. There is no substitute for it. Waiting is important in our spiritual preparation, because it allows our heart and soul to get ready for Jesus to come into out lives anew. Waiting provides time for contemplation, meditation, reflection and prayer. Waiting is what God wants us to do. And Scripture reminds us over and over again, how important that is ... “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Don’t rush into Christmas without keeping a good Advent. You will be richly blessed.

Wells is a retired pastor, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Contact him at revknight.wells5@frontier.com.