Advent marks the beginning of the Church Year. While the nation celebrates the New Year on January 1st, our new year begins on Advent in the beginning of December. This year, it begins on December 1st. Last year, it was December 2nd. Yet I think we spend so much time preparing for Christmas with home decorating, purchasing gifts, and preparing our travels for the holidays that we often forget about—or at least end up overlooking—the holy season of Advent. After all, there are only 12 days of Christmas, and they don’t start until December 25th. From December 1st until the 25th, then, we have nearly a whole month to anticipate the coming of Jesus.
Now, I don’t want to minimise Christmas. It’s a wonderful holiday in which we remember the greatest gift of salvation in Christ in our own gift-giving. Yet until then, we live in a long anticipation of Christ’s coming. That is, Advent is an anticipation of Christmas. Let’s not rush to the manger. After all, the Lord comes to us; we don’t come to Him.
“Advent” is a word coming from (pun intended) the Latin word, adventus, which means “coming.” During Advent, we anticipate (or prepare for) Jesus’ coming until Christmas Day, the day we actually celebrate Jesus’ coming.
Advent, then, is a time to slow down and remember why we are anticipating Christmas. If you haven’t guessed by now, we don’t celebrate Christmas to indulge in our consumerism. Just what is the meaning of Christmas, then?
In several TV shows that have their annual Christmas (or “Holiday”) episodes, there is a common theme throughout each of them. The theme often goes like this: “Christmas is about being generous toward one another.” True, during the Christmas (and Advent) season we do express generosity toward one another, but is that truly the reason for the season? As Christians, we know better.
Even Linus, one of the beloved characters from The Peanuts, knows better. In the 1965 Christmas special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, after Charlie Brown seemingly mucks up Christmas, he yells in his dismay, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus volunteers to teach the other Peanuts children about the true meaning of Christmas.
Taking centre stage, Linus drops his blue security blanket and speaks from Luke 2:8-14, a common narrative of Jesus’ birth spoken during Christmas and Advent:
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”
When he finishes, he picks up his security blanket again, walks over to his best friend, and says, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown!”
The birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Christ the Lord—that is what Christmas is all about. That is what Advent anticipates. Not generosity or gift-giving, but Jesus the Christ. Linus displays this reason not only in his words, but even in his actions.
I mentioned Linus drops his blue security blanket. This has enormous significance. Throughout all of Peanuts, Linus never separates himself from his source of security and comfort. Yet when he begins to speak the Word of the Lord—specifically the Word concerning the coming of our Saviour—he drops his security blanket. He separates himself from it because Jesus is his—and our—sole source of security and comfort.
What might our security blankets be, I wonder? What do we cling to more than we cling to the Word of the Lord? This Advent season, then, let us take these 24 days to slow down. Let us anticipate for these long 24 days the celebration of the birth of our Lord. Furthermore, let us anticipate the second coming of Christ and cling to Him throughout the whole year, who likewise shall advent upon His believers with good tidings of great joy, in which we shall sing with the multitude in Heaven, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8).