What the Heck Is Advent?

I just bought noble fir boughs, incense cedar, and juniper for making my Advent wreath — evergreens for the evergreening grace of God. Advent starts tomorrow. Here’s a little catch-up on what it’s all about.

Awhile ago a  Jewish friend dropped me a note asking: “What’s the simplest explanation of Advent you can give (to this Jew who can never get it)?” Last week, a Hindu friend asked the same thing.

Affectionate inter-religious curiosity is such a beautiful thing (smile).

Here’s my 25 cent explanation: Advent is the 4 weeks of preparation before Christmas. Some folks make an Advent wreath with 4 candles to mark the weeks. Some folks use an Advent calendar with little boxes that you open each day to mark the approach of Christmas.

Advent used to be called the “Little Lent” so it is similar to Lent. (Alot of help, right?) Lent is the 40 day season of penitence and sacrifice that comes before Easter. Lent is in preparation for remembering Jesus’ dying on the cross. The 40 days of Lent mirror the 40 days Jesus spent in retreat in the desert before his public ministry, which mirrored the 40 years in the wilderness of Moses and the Israelites before entering the Promised Land.

Advent originally was the 40 days of contemplative, prayerful, joyful preparation for the miracle of God becoming a human being in Jesus (marked at Christmas).

Somewhere along the line, Advent’s 40 days got condensed to the 4 weeks before Christmas, but the spirit of it is still the same. Advent’s a time of quiet joyful introspective reflection, like a mother in her final month of pregnancy–anxiously awaiting the complete turning upside down of her world.

For more religiousy explanations, you can check out Dennis Bratcher’s roundup here..

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