What is Advent?

Question
What is Advent?
Answer

Advent is what we call the season leading up to Christmas. It begins four Sundays before December 25.

What do we look back to during this time? At Christmas, Christians look back to Christ's birth, which in the fullness of time later would give way to his death, burial and resurrection. This is our only hope! It gives us yet one more opportunity to draw near to Christ. Peter expounds upon this saying:

1 Peter 1:10-12 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

Peter speaks of the fulfillment of God's promises and Advent is one way of looking back to their fulfillment. Advent literally means "coming." Indeed, we look back to Christ's coming so we may more fully look forward to his second coming. We can say it is a time of celebration, hope, and longing. It is a time of celebration in that we have another opportunity to look back at Christ's birth and rejoice in awe of the incarnation (John 1:14). It is also a time of hope in that as the saints of old awaited Christ's first coming we await his second (1 Pet. 1:10-12). It is a time of longing in that the Second Coming will be a day of renewal (Rom. 8:18-25).

A time of celebration, hope, and longing: A song which represents this theme and is often sung during this season is "O come, O come, Emmanuel." The lyrics echo a number of prophetic themes. The title comes from Isaiah 7:14. The "Rod of Jesse" refers to Isaiah 11:1. "Day-Spring" comes from Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, in Luke 1:78. "Thou Key of David" is in Isaiah 22:22, which in turn refers to Isaiah 9:6 (source: cyberhymnal.org).

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).