“…O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by Thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and Death`s dark shadows put to flight…”
So I was sitting with Gaelynn during this morning`s worship service, as Mr. & Mrs. Meyers lit the first candle of the Advent season. “Daddy,” my daughter said to me, “What is Advent?”
I smiled at the question.
Then I explained to her that it means the time when our LORD came to us, some two-thousand years ago, to be born in a manger.
“Oh,” she replied, “so it`s like a birthday party?”
My daughter has, for the most part, grown up in a Baptist home and, as a consequence, knows very little of many of the traditions and observances which have historically belonged to our more “liturgical” brethren in the Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Episcopalian denominations.
Yet with the humble wisdom of her seven years of age, she asks a question that I found myself pondering for much of the rest of the day. What is Advent?
Observed formally by churches as early as the fourth century, there are references to services remembering the Nativity as early as the second century. Theophilus of Antioch (circa 180 AD) describes distinctive worship services taking place on the 25th of December in honor of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Christian assemblies from around the Mediterranean, the continent of Africa, and the furthermost points of Europe have left remnants of themselves in this custom – a legacy that unites us to our long departed Brethren, as well as to those that shall follow in our footsteps in the Faith.
Advent is both a solemn as well as a joyful time of year; with each candle we light, we remember that He is our Light and that He would have us reflect His light to a darkened world.
In a time of year that can be so dizzying with the startlements of mass-media and the wanton avarice of excessive consumerism, the season of Advent shows us a way to slow down and savor our days.
We consider those of lesser fortune, and we loosen our purse-strings for those in need. We pray for those in pain and sickness, for those that are far from home, and for those that are in harm`s way.
We tell the old old story of His birth, life, death, and glorious resurrection. We read the Scriptures and sing hymns of the Faith, we feast and fellowship with grateful hearts.
In this time of Advent, we remember that unto us a Son is given.