It's been said before but it's worth repeating: Advent is not pre-Christmas. It’s not a time of finding good sales and decorating the house and singing commercialized Christmas cheer. It is rather a time of darkness, a time of longing. That’s why I love the season dearly, because Advent is real.
It doesn’t give in to the fads of our materialistic society, nor does it turn the festivities into trite moralistic lessons. It doesn’t act as if those whose only Christmas wish is to keep the heat on have no reason to be concerned. Nor does it pretend that this month won’t be hard on those with broken families and broken lives, those who’ve lost loved ones. Simply put, Advent does not mask suffering with wrapping paper and eggnog, it does not cover our sin and pain with tinsel and call it “good.” There is no fake holiday cheer in the season of Advent.
Rather, it is a season for the despairing and the downcast of this world, the poor miserable sinners and the just plain miserable. That is why, contrary to what we would expect, the readings for Advent do not remind us of the events leading up to Christ’s birth. Advent lets Christmas tell the story of Christmas, and instead prepares us for the Christ.
Thus, we enter the season by standing with the Hosanna-shouting crowd who beholds the King as He comes to us. Not in anger or wrath, but in Grace and Mercy. Not to punish, but to save. Thus, we begin Advent by acting as sinners who shout for the Savior to simply be Himself, to save us. There, the one who is in no way weak, becomes like us who are weak. There He goes to die for the dying. And in this way, Advent reminds us of the trajectory of this Bethlehem birth, which ends when our Lord returns to set this broken world aright, but which is now delivered to us in Word and Sacrament.
Take comfort, therefore, in the great penitential and sober season of Advent, for it does not dismiss that which you suffer with superficial benevolence, nor does it disregard your sin. What Advent does, is deliver Christ.
Once He came in blessing, All our sins redressing; Came in likeness lowly, Son of God most holy; Bore the cross to save us; Hope and freedom gave us.
Now He gently leads us; With Himself He feeds us Precious food from heaven, Pledge of peace here given, Manna that will nourish Souls that they may flourish.
Soon will come that hour When with mighty power Christ will come in splendor And will judgement render, With the faithful sharing Joy beyond comparing.
Come, then, O Lord Jesus, From our sins release us. Keep our hearts believing, That we, grace receiving, Ever may confess You Till in heaven we bless You.