What is Advent? Advent for churchgoers is a season of the Christian year (to be precise, the church year begins with Advent).

Advent is intended to fill with expectation and hope for the arrival of Jesus. It's a season of waiting, which is why in some churches they deliberately do not use any Christmas music until December 25th.

Advent like being pregnant (which is what Mary experiences before the birth of Jesus, right?): you have to wait a certain amount of time so that the baby is prepared to be healthy out here in the world. You might want to get on with the birth, but you have to do some waiting.

This waiting connects both to Advent being the beginning of the church year and to a question of which Jesus arrival we're waiting for.

The Christmas Jesus has historically already arrived, so if we're waiting for the baby, we're kind of living in the past. It's helpful for us to experience that birth of Jesus all over again to get us engaged in what he does as an adult, but that can't be all we're waiting for.

Just as much as we re-enact the waiting for a Messiah and our belief that the Messiah already arrived through the birth of Jesus, we also await Jesus' promised return, his 'second coming,' that he and others predicted before and after his earthly ministry was over.

Many Christians have spent a lot of time trying to predict when Jesus might return, or trying to help make it happen. We tend to not get as caught up in assuming it will happen soon, but we do try to define our faith on being faithful to one who is faithful to us and does not leave us here alone.

The kind of waiting we do in Advent is a microcosm of the waiting we do in general as Christians. While we wait, Jesus doesn't call us to just sit on our hands! Instead, Jesus calls us to live in hope, peace, joy, and love. To act like every day could be our last. To make this precious life worth the pain and suffering because of the joy we can access now and even more later.

In between the first and second coming of Jesus, there is a spiritual arrival of Jesus whenever we decide that we will follow him and live in love, joy, peace, and hope.

This is why one central Christian tradition of Advent is the lighting of candles for the four Sundays before Christmas and the Christ candle on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We light the candles because they help us count the days and to wait. They help us remember that Christ gives us hope, peace, joy and love. They help us remember that God brings light in a world that threatens to overwhelm us.

You're invited to actively participate in the waiting and being and doing of Advent!

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