What is Advent?

Christ is coming, he has come, and he will come again. This is the message of Advent, the Christian season that leads up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

The season of “Advent” is a period within the historical church calendar, consisting of the four weeks before Christmas. Traditionally, as Christians moved through the four weeks, they would celebrate a different theological theme through particular readings and reflections. The word “advent” itself signals the theme of this season before Christmas: it means “arriving.” Because Advent culminates in Christmas, this arriving is often considered as pointing to the arrival of Jesus as a baby in a manger. Yet, Advent celebrates Christmas from a dual perspective, not only pointing us to the past event of Christ’s arrival but also points to the future arriving of Jesus, when he comes again to fully restore the earth to glory as he promised.

For many, this season is about a hundred things other than the implications of the birth of the Saviour two thousand years ago. In the hustle and bustle of metropolitan places like Vancouver, it’s easy for the historical truth of the season to be pushed aside.

Advent is our way of remembering that the Christmas story happened in objective history. This isn’t a “Once upon a time” story. This isn’t a myth. These were real people, living in real places, in real time. This is a historical story, a story of the fulfillment of promises in real time and space.

Galatians 4:4-5
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

It was “in the fullness of time” that Jesus’ incarnation occurred.

Time is an interesting thing to think about during the weeks that lead up to Christmas, since it seems to effortlessly evaporate and leave us wondering what happened to it. (Is it really December already?)

The New Testament was originally written in Greek, so sometimes it’s helpful to get underneath the surface of an English word and have a look at what it means.

For instance:
“There are several words in the Greek language that translate into the English word for time. Chronos is the one we would find most familiar, meaning successive or sequential time; this is the kind of time you find on your wristwatch. Another is kairos, meaning an event, an opportunity—a moment in time when everything changes because it is the right time. A kairos moment is when the eternal God breaks into your circumstances with an event that gathers some loose ends of your life and knots them together in his hands.” [1]

The time of fulfillment we remember during Advent was a kairos moment in a chronos minute.

It’s the fulfillment of a promise in objective history. It’s when seconds and minutes and hours were interrupted with a personal intervention from God himself.

When Jesus began preaching in Galilee he declared, “The time is fulfilled.” He was talking about kairos time, a moment when God breaks into our circumstances and grabs ahold of us and puts us back together.

It’s an event that changes everything, in real history.
It’s the fulfillment of a promise, in real time and space.

This is a God-appointed time for the full weight of the promises of God to be poured out on the cosmos and be brought to bear on our human condition.

You could say that the birth of Jesus was the kairos moment of all kairos moments. The in-breaking redemption of the world wrapped up in swaddling clothes in the manger. The appointed time of all appointed times in God’s grand purpose.

As we pray for God’s Kingdom to come in Vancouver as it is in heaven, living through the season of Advent with Christ City Church will be a time for reflection and special attention to Jesus as the one who came, who died and reigns now among us, and who will come again in glory. Practicing Advent will help us celebrate Christmas as Christians, called to live as people who are oriented by God’s work and story. Join us this Advent season, as we are invited to practice living our Christian identity as the anticipating people of God.

[1] From Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen & Steve Cockram