The name “Advent” is the Latin version of the Greek “parousia,” which means “coming.” Advent is thus a season not only awaiting the celebration of Christ’s nativity, but also awaiting his second coming; in fact, the passages usually used liturgically to commemorate Advent vary between Old Testament prophecies expecting the Messiah, and New Testament prophecies expecting Christ’s return. Unfortunately, this latter topic can be fittingly described in terms similar to those used by Lewis to assess theology concerning the devil — people are either unhealthily obsessed, or ignore the subject entirely. I suspect we do both as a way of not having to think of our lives in terms of Christ’s future judgement. It is easier to justify ourselves to ourselves when we consider ourselves as abstractions outside of a lived history in time that God will eventually call to account. And it is similarly easier to seek gnostic and numerological codes in the Bible about the end times (e. g. Harold Camping), or invent fanciful tales like the Left Behind series, than to set aside detailed prognostication in favor of the more difficult business of being a Christian in expectation of Christ’s return. Advent is thus an excellent season for considering what it means to live as subjects of a history with beginnings, ends, and consequences; it is also an excellent time to set aside the childish game of “pin the tail on the rapture,” and focus rather on a more mature and sober ascesis as we learn to live into the light of Christ.
For the next 23 days, I will be posting reflections on Christmas and Christmas culture as a way of counting down Advent. My posts will orbit about two themes: the primary reason for Christmas, the coming of Immanuel (God with us); and the odd and bizarre way that Christmas culture relates to this advent. These posts are informed by G.K. Chesterton’s analysis of Christmas and Dickens. See Chesterton on Christmas in my notes, from his biography of Dickens.
Next in the series: Peace on Earth