Two things about Advent you need to know.
This Sunday we will light our first Advent candle at Pathway. As we prepare for this special season in the church calendar, here’s some of the story behind Advent.
The exact date when Advent began is impossible to determine. Even though Jesus Christ was not born on December 25th, this date was chosen because the December Solstice is the darkest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Since Jesus is the Light of the World, it made sense to choose the darkest time of the year to celebrate his birth.
Once December 25th became the date for Christmas, Advent arose as a way to prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ in the same way that Lent prepares us to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter. By the 4th century the first recorded evidence of Advent being celebrated was in modern Spain. At the Council of Saragosa (AD 380) Advent was officially mentioned as the answer to the gnostic heresy of Priscillianism (the belief that the body is evil and the spirit is good.) The celebration of the incarnation of Jesus Christ which is the climax of Advent, teaches us that since God took on flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ, both the body and spirit are good.
The Latin word adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia – a word used for the both the coming of Christ in human flesh, and the second coming of Jesus Christ. For this reason Advent tends to focus on both. Typically the first two weeks of Advent focus on the Second Coming of Jesus and the last two weeks focus on his first parousia. This double meaning reminds us that today we live between the first and Second Coming of Jesus.
So Pathway, as we prepare to light our first Advent candle this Sunday, may God prepare our hearts to remember his first coming and to wait expectantly for the Light of the World to come again to dispel all darkness once and for all.
*Adapted from Ryan Reeves, The History of Advent, www.thegospelcoalition.org.