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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

If We Ever Needed Advent....

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

2020 is showing its last colors, its time waning to the cold months of winter before the dawn of 2021. It has been a historically painful year featuring a pandemic, a sharp economic fallout, a public reckoning over America’s past and present sins of racial injustice, and a contentious presidential election. We all arrive at the end exhausted, mourning the loss of loved ones, pained over injustice, and worried about the future. I am fortunate in that I still have a job and have not lost anyone close to me to COVID-19. Yet I arrive with anxiety, battered by virtual teaching and teaching under social distancing requirements, and the loneliness of quarantine. I think if there was ever a year we needed Advent, it is this one.


Advent usually gets subsumed into the commercial Christmas season. It is the time to listen to Christmas music, watch the holiday classics, and complete gift shopping. The celebration seems to begin earlier each year. My sisters and I engage in a regular debate. They have listened to Christmas music since at least October with the defense that "It's been a tough year and I want to be happy!" The celebration of Christmas is a beautiful mystery and the highlight of my year as much as everyone else [1].


Yet the church calendar, in its wisdom, provides a distinct season of Advent before a 6-week Christmas celebration. The season of Advent serves as preparation for the Christmas celebration. It offers an opportunity to reflect honestly on why we need the Christmas season. It does so in two ways. First, it allows us to place ourselves in the story of Israel in exile under the Roman empire. It opens a path for us to experience what it was like for Israel to wait with hope for God's Messiah to liberate His people. It helps us experience just why Jesus' original birth was such good news and so worthy of celebration. The Old Testament reading from this year's First Sunday of Advent reads: "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins.Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people" [2].


Second, as we place ourselves in Israel's waiting story, we come to grips with the ways we are still waiting. At the first Christmas, the angels may have sung, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests" [3], but war, violence, death, and catastrophe still seem to be the order of the day. Yet Advent asserts these things are not the final word. Just as Jesus came once, He will come again to set everything right, once and for all. St. Paul boldly asserted, "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" [4]. During Advent, we wait more attentively and learn into the bold Christian defiance that looks at the chaos around us and declares, "You might throw a tantrum today, but you have lost and will not have the last say. Your days are numbered."


Advent is a season to lament, lean into the reality that the world is not as it ought to be. It does not look away from the wound, grin and bear the pain, or simply bandage it and move on. It takes an honest look, exposes the wound, and gives voice to its pain. It does so in order that it might be healed. Advent does not allow us to escape the pain for a sugar-coated Christmas season. It opens the wound so that Christmas might heal it with the good news that God has stepped into His broken world to set it right.

And Advent also looks at the chaos in light of the story's end. It fosters bold defiance to the present evil age. Christmas is the tangible anchor of that hope. Christ has come into the world once. He bore the world's evil and suffering in His death and overthrew it in His resurrection. Christmas is the first death knell to the present order of the world. Advent is the season we learn to await the final death knell.


[1] See Scott Carr, Jr. “God Become Like Us,” November 15, 2017, https://www.reimaginefaith.org/post/2017/11/15/god-become-like-us.

[2] Isaiah 64:1-9 NIV.

[3] Luke 2:14.

[4] 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.

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