Themes of Advent
Advent is right around the corner. We discussed the season in a previous post here. But what are the themes of Advent?
The overarching Theme of Advent is taken from the words of John the Baptist: “Prepare the Way of the Lord!”
Advent starts with an apocalyptic theme on the first Sunday. You might be wondering what the Second Coming of Christ has to do with preparation for the First Coming. The idea is that in order to prepare for the Second Coming, we go back to the Old Testament, to the Prophets, and to John the Baptist, to understand what it was like to wait for the Messiah the first time around. To prepare for him. To trust that he would eventually come. In going back to those days, we being to understand the patience, the faith, and the perseverance of our spiritual fathers and mothers, as they waited for the Messiah. We are waiting for him also, although he is present to us through the Holy Spirit.
John the Baptist looms large during Advent, especially on the second and third Sundays. This theme is summed up well in the Collect for the Second Sunday of Adent:
Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Jesus called John the greatest of the prophets. He was the culmination of the prophetic ministry of Israel, and he was the prophet who was able to actually point to Jesus and say, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” In John we see all of the longing of Israel for the Messiah. We see a prophet who points to the fulfillment of all of the sacrificial system. We see a man who transitions us from the old covenant to the new, and moves aside for Jesus the Messiah to fill the horizon.
And then on the final Sunday of Advent, we are ready to transition to Christmas. We read of the annunciation to Mary on the very cusp of the Incarnation. All that we have read from the prophets and heard from John the Baptist is now being revealed. Mary sings a song, which has been used in worship ever since. This “Song of Mary” or “Magnificat” beautifully sums up the joy and mystery of God made flesh, through the womb of a humble woman.
Some parishes have Advent Lessons and Carols sometime during this final week before Christmas. This includes patterns of Scriptures that take us from the creation and fall, through Abraham and David, and into Isaiah and the prophets. Advent carols and hymns are sung, and in this way we journey back through our spiritual history.
In all of this, we are preparing for Christmas and the unique wonder and beauty of the Christian message: God has made his home with us.
For more on Christmas, check out “Christmas and the Holidays.” Also coming soon, “Keeping the Twelve Days of Christmas.”
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