. . . posts on faith and life
My roots run deep in my faith tradition, and I would not prefer to be a part of any other movement than the one I am in now. However, if there is one disservice done to me by my denomination it is that it has avoided liturgy at such an extreme that I was never given any sense of the Christian calendar. I have recently been doing an informal (and very unscientific) poll of young people from my faith tradition. So far I have not been able to find one young person who can tell me what begins the Christian calendar. When I tell them that the season of advent marks the beginning of the Christian year they can neither tell me when that is nor what the word advent means. If you gathered every follower of Christ from the last 2000 years together in one place, we (those who do not follow the rhythm of the Christian year) would be such a shocking minority that some would wonder if they could consider us Christian at all.
There is a point to following this rhythm of the Christian year, and a point that the year begins with advent. There are few concepts more foundational to what it means to be Christian than the concept of advent. Advent simply means “coming.” It refers to the sacred time when Christ came, continues to come and will soon come again! When Christ comes it is a cosmic event that takes place in chronos time. He comes from the eternal reality beyond our temporary existence. Thus, it is foremost a kairotic event that ushers in the presence of God. That is why the New Testament begins (see Matthew 1:23) and ends (see Revelation 21:3) with the same simple message of Christ’s coming.
There are three dimensions of Christ’s coming in kairos time. First, there is the incarnation of Christ, “but when the fulness of time came, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under law” (Galatians 4:4). Second, there is the parousia, sometimes called the second-coming of Christ, when Jesus will fully restore the Kingdom of God at “the appointed time” (Acts 1:6-7). Third, there are the personal comings of the Lord that Scripture refers to as “times of refreshing…from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
When Jesus comes He always reveals, and in this sense His coming is always apocalyptic (the English word apocalypse comes from the Greek word that means “to reveal”). Jesus said, “nothing is hidden, except to be revealed” (Mark 4:22). It is so much a part of Christ’s nature to reveal that one of the only things He seemed almost unable to do was to keep Himself hidden (see Mark 1:44-45). The response He receives when revealing depends on the nature of the one who is receiving the revelation. Religious people are often offended at Christ’s coming “And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard Him speak” (Luke 4:28). Demons are filled with fear, “have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29). The wise are filled with awe and wonder, “the Magi saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshipped Him” (Matthew 2:11). His followers are transformed on the journey, “were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road?” (Luke 24:32).
So, what time is it now? What is the season? Half of the world is in spring and the other half is in fall. However, Christians in every part of the world are preparing for one of the most exciting times of the year, advent. It is that time of year when we remember and anticipate Christ’s comings, and celebrate the in-breaking events of God’s presence that sustain us between the two. It is in this season that we are to forget about the ways that life has slipped into the mundane predictability that leaves us with little hope for substantive change and victorious transformation. “Do not ponder the things of the past; behold I will do something new” (Isaiah 43:18-19). Yes, advent is upon us, and as a Christian you are expected to be expeting the unexpected! Does not your heart burn within you as He speaks to us?