Churches all over the world are presently celebrating Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical year in the church calendar. Mark Earngey looks at the history and biblical beginnings of Advent and encourages us to consider the preparations and prayers Christians can make at this time.
"Advent comes from the Latin adventus which means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’. And the Bible speaks about three main comings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Firstly, his coming from heaven to be incarnate of the Virgin Mary (Matt 1:18-25). Secondly, his coming into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-8). Thirdly, his coming back again in glory to judge the living and the dead; that is the adventus of our Lord Jesus (Acts 17:31; 1 Cor 1:8). These three advents shape the Christian life as we prepare to meet Jesus.
Our churches also seek to prepare people to meet Jesus. So understandably Advent has held an important place in the yearly rhythms of church life, the church calendar. In the first few centuries Advent was observed in various ways but became a settled liturgical season by around the 5th or 6th century. At the time of the Reformation, Advent continued as a celebrated liturgical season, with Thomas Cranmer stitching it into the theology and practice of the Book of Common Prayer. The reformers, of course, pruned some of the bits of Roman Catholic devotion off the liturgical calendar, but they continued the celebration of Advent. Why? Because they wanted their churches to encourage people in their preparation to meet Jesus. What an eminently sensible and undoubtedly biblical – even missional! – reason for evangelical and reformed churches today to appreciate Advent."