by Andene O’Neil

For many the Advent season is marked by opening little doors on a bright red and green calendar, each new day opened brings a new festive surprise (a sticker? a piece of chocolate?) and signals the countdown to Christmas. Or maybe you grew up making colored paper-chains and draping them around your family’s kitchen, fighting with your siblings about who gets to remove that day’s ring.  Now, these calendars and countdowns are certainly not bad in and of themselves—in fact I think they’re fun, I just might make a paper-chain for Sean and I when I finish this post—but I do think that the richness of Advent is somewhat missed when we view it as solely a season of cheerful “pre-celebration” before the final party.

Advent is not to Christmas what tailgating is to the big game. (Stick with me here…) Advent is actually solemn and a little dark. In our worship space we don’t bring out all the poinsettias and whites and golds and reds until Christmas arrives. Instead we stick with darker, rich colors like purple and blue. And as Christian mentioned this past Sunday, we should align many aspects of Advent with Lent. They’re both seasons of preparation for what we know will be amazing celebrations, but in our preparation we take stock of our frailty and need for a Savior. We repent and we long and we hunger.

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Israel had been waiting for a Messiah for a long time. We see all of the Old Testament scriptures point to a coming King, one who would rule and bring peace and salvation to their splintered/exiled/rebellious nation. They were desperate for this Promised One. They knew they needed him. They longed and hungered for him. They waited for him.

We have the unique vantage point of knowing that this Messiah has actually already come, but we are no less in need of him than the Israelites were. We also know that we are looking ahead to Christ’s final coming. As we take stock of ourselves and our world, we cannot help but eagerly anticipate when he returns as King: one who rules and brings peace and salvation to all who call upon his name. We are waiting for him.

When engaging with Linda Hammer’s amazing Advent paintings (the banners currently hung from the church’s front columns) I’m particularly struck by the image of the bride. Here is a woman who repents, longs and hungers for her Savior’s coming. I can’t help but stare at her outreached arms. I suppose it could be the posture of cheerful praise, but in this season of Advent I see it as desperate longing, “Come! Lord Jesus. I need you. I’m waiting for you.”

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This Sunday we will all have a chance to reflect and articulate our prayers of longing this Advent season within the service. All are encouraged to consider the ways in which we are currently waiting and longing for the coming of our Lord.