COME LORD JESUS by Bob Doyle
(A SHORT HISTORY OF ADVENT)
It is ironic that the early Church struggled with establishing the season of Advent. Once the Church settled on a calendar, Lent was kind of a no-brainer. The Crucifixion and Resurrection tell a story that makes perfect sense for a period of penance and redemptive acts in, what Christians believe to be, the given path to salvation. Forty days shows up everywhere in the Old Testament so Lent was inevitable in preparation for Easter. But what about Christmas?
The Incarnation had its own message that needed time to be understood and accepted. The early Church Fathers understood this but first they had to clarify what exactly that message was. Again fixing on one calendar played a role. In the 4th and 5th centuries 40 days were set aside in the Church calendar to prepare for the Epiphany. This had become the time for new initiates to prepare for baptism. It wasn’t until the 6th century that the Roman Church established Advent not as a preparation for Christ’s birth but rather as a time to prepare for his second coming or the End of Days. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that the Church began using the Advent Season to celebrate Christ’s birth. But this newer sense of the Lord’s Advent did not supplant preparation for the Second Coming.
So what is the true purpose of Advent? First it is about learning how to wait not only for Christmas Day but for Christ’s second coming. Then it is the mystery of the Incarnation and what this means for humankind’s ultimate salvation. It is about the Redemption that God has gifted us with the arrival of His Son. And finally it is preparation for the Gift of the Incarnation itself.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory of a father’s only son full of Grace and truth. John 1:14