Today is the first Sunday of Advent in more traditional churches. Although I don’t attend a church that observes this four week period with much more than a shout-out in the welcome, I’m trying to use this time to prepare my own heart. Throughout this liturgical season I will pop in from time to time and share what I’m learning.
So what is Advent? It’s a foreign idea to many, I am sure. In the United States, we just start decorating with greens, reds and golds, throw in some reindeer and an old guy in a red suit and somehow come up with a month-long festival known as Christmas. The word advent is derived from a Latin word that means “coming.” It is closely connected with the Greek word parousia, which means “presence, arrival, or official visit.” The season of Advent, then, is a time of preparation. The King is coming. We must get ready so we can welcome Him in a worthy manner.
During these four weeks we remember and prepare for His coming – we share in the ancient longing for the Messiah to arrive in Bethlehem, we welcome Him into our hearts daily, and look alertly and with great hope for the day He returns in glory. We stay awake, we keep vigil, we pray and wait for Jesus, the only son of the Father, whose birth we celebrate. We long for His arrival. We keep watch in the night.
So this year, I left most of my “Christmas” decorations in their boxes. My tree is up but only decorated with purple and white…ready for a King, but not yet celebrating.
Tonight, I light a single purple candle and read God’s promise in Ezekiel 34: “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all the places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land…I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak…And they shall know that I am the Lord their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord God. And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God.”
Let every heart prepare Him room!