Christmas decorations have been in our stores, it seems, since shortly after the Fourth of July. The week before Thanksgiving, one of the area radio stations became the “official Christmas radio station,” playing beloved Christmas songs all day long. It really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, the only problem is that it’s not Christmas yet. For those of us who follow the liturgical calendar, this is the season of Advent. No manger scene, no Santa Claus, no “Hark! The Herald Angel Sings” … at least, not yet.
The first time I heard the word “advent” was back in youth group at the Adventist church I attended in the Mojave Desert. The “advent” in Adventist wasn’t referring to the season we find ourselves today, preparing for the birth of the Christ Child. No, this “advent” was in anticipation of the Parousia—the Second Coming of Christ—and the end of the world as we know it. This advent wasn’t going to take place in some humble manger with the audience of some shepherds and farm animals—this was the big show that “every eye shall see,” as St. Paul described. We were instructed to be watchful, to prepare, and to be ever-mindful of the advent of Christ.
I have since left the Adventist Church, but the rich and practical understanding of Advent has left its mark. Advent isn’t just a season on our Church Calendar. It’s a way of life. Maybe not in anticipation of the Parousia but in living a life counter to the commercialism we see all around us. We live in a “right now” world, demanding quick and easy results. The season of Advent invites us to push pause, to wait with anticipation, and to prepare room in our hearts for something exciting to come.
May we be transformed by the gift of advent as we await the “long-expected Jesus.”
Angel Rivero is a third-year M.Div. student at PSR and is pursuing ordination in The United Methodist Church. He earned his BA in theology from Pacific Union College, an Adventist college in the Napa Valley, in 2016. Angel is currently completing his field education at Open Door UMC in Richmond.