Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and Timothy Paul Jones over at The Gospel Coalition does a wonderful job answering the question, "Why Celebrate Advent?".
Once upon a time, there was a season in the church year known as “Advent.” The word comes to us from the Latin for “coming.” The purpose of the season was to look toward the coming of Christ to earth; it was a season that focused on waiting.
As early as the fourth century A.D., Christians fasted during this season and ended their fasts with celebrations either of the arrival of the wise men or of the baptism of Jesus. For many Christians today, the most familiar sign of Advent is the lighting of candles—two purple candles, followed by a pink and then another purple—on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.
Advent has fallen on hard times, though. In the Protestant and free-church traditions, the loss is somewhat understandable; we Baptists in particular tend to be quite suspicious of anything with origins in ancient or medieval tradition. Yet, even in congregations that closely follow the rhythms of the church year, the meaning of Advent seems in danger of being misplaced. By the closing week of November, any sense of waiting has been eclipsed by the nativity scene in the lobby, the tannenbaum in the hall, and the list of Christmas parties in the church newsletter.
He then addresses the "awkward intrusion of Advent":
Why this displacement of Advent as a distinct season?
Perhaps it’s because, for believers no less than non-believers, our calendars are dominated not by the venerable rhythms of redemption but by the swifter currents of consumerism and efficiency. The microwave saves us from waiting for soup to simmer on the stove, credit cards redeem us from waiting on a paycheck to make our purchases, and this backward extension of the Christmas season liberates us from having to deal with the awkward lull of Advent. And so, before the last unpurchased Halloween costume has made it back to the warehouse, halls and malls are decked with plastic holly and crimson ribbon. Thanksgiving provides a pre-Christmas test run on basting turkeys and tolerating relatives—but the primary function of Thanksgiving increasingly seems to be to supply a convenient time to gather for that orgy of consumption and consumer debt known as Black Friday.
Why this Advent-free leap from All Hallow’s Eve to Christmas Eve?
Perhaps because Christmas is about celebration, and celebrations can be re-construed to move products off the shelves. Advent is about waiting, and waiting contributes little to the gross domestic product.
In a religious milieu that has fixated itself on using Jesus to provide seekers with their most convenient lives here and now, Advent is a particularly awkward intrusion. Advent links our hearts with those of ancient prophets who pined for a long-promised Messiah but who passed away long before his arrival.
In the process, Advent reminds us that we too are waiting.
It is worth your time to read the whole thing, which includes his thoughts on "learning to celebrate the waiting." I pray it inspires you to slow down this month, enter into the waiting, and celebrate our King Jesus, whose return I so deeply long for.