Advent begins the Christian year with a time of preparation for the coming Messiah and serves as a reminder that Christ will come again. It is a time of fasting, repentance, prayer, and expectation for Christians. It is similar to Lent (a time of fasting, repentance, prayer, and expectation); except it is more joyful. The King is Coming! Prepare the way of the Lord!
Capitalism and the retail system has changed the way we view this time of year. It has renamed the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas day as the "Christmas Season." In the Christian Calendar, the Christmas Season until Christmas Day. Remember the song "The 12 Days of Christmas"? It is influenced by the Christian Calendar. The Christmas Season begins on Christmas Day and continues for 12 days.
Advent's time of expectation is released in the joy of Christmas and the Christmas Season that follows. Instead, Christmas ends with a whimper following the last Christmas present being opened instead of being a 12 day celebration of the coming of our Lord into the world.
Maybe it would be good to reorder our calendars and our lives around similar principles...to use the calendar to reflect on our expectation of the Lord's arrival. He has come into the world, and He will return. We sometimes avoid talk of the "end times" because of all the dissent and debate. However, the Lord's return is when all that we hope for...our salvation, the defeat of sin and death, the return of the world functioning as God intended...will all be accomplished.
1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 says,
We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
Those in Thessalonica would not see this as a "rapture" where they get to leave the world, but as sending a delegation out to meet the arriving King and escort Him into their town. The Lord will return and set to right all that sin and death has destroyed in God's good creation.
Here is my prayer for this season:
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
Charles Wesley, 1707-1788
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.