Let us use the letters of the word "Advent" as an aid to reflect upon this four-week season of watching and preparation.
A points to ARRIVAL.
Advent ends with the celebration of the first Eucharist/Mass/Holy Communion of Christmas. Thus Advent is all about preparation for the arrival of the Incarnate Son of God, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. Although the Incarnation is a past event and has occurred, it is yet to come in liturgical time. Thus the people of God prepare themselves during the four weeks to celebrate the arrival of the Saviour. At the same time as they look forward in liturgical time to Christmas, they look forward in real time to the arrival of the same Incarnate Son of God from heaven to judge the living and the dead. They exercise Christian hope as they watch and pray and keep themselves in readiness to greet the arrival of the Lord of glory.
D points to the Day of the Lord.
The arrival in real, chronological time on earth in glory of the once crucified and now exalted Lord Jesus Christ in order to judge the nations will be "the Day of the Lord," of which the prophets of the Old Testament often spoke. This Day will be a day of judgment and pain for the disobedient and of joy and salvation to the faithful. Jesus taught us to watch and pray and to be prepared!
V points to "Venite, exultemus Domino."
Advent is a time especially for the people of God to say one to another in the language of the Psalter, " Venite, O come, let us sing unto the Lord" and "O come, let us worship and fall down" (Ps.95 etc.). They prepare to kneel at the manger wherein lies the infant, who is the Son of God incarnate, and with the angels to worship the One who is born King of the Jews and Lord of all nations. " Venite, O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord." At the same time they also prepare to worship the Lord Jesus Christ at his Second Coming and to confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father - O come let us worship and fall down before him.
E points to Encouragement and Edification.
The duty of pastors of Christ's flock during the season of Advent is to encourage the lambs and sheep of Christ to prepare in liturgical time for the First Advent and in real time for the Second Advent. They are to teach God's people from the Scriptures the truth concerning Jesus of Nazareth, his relation to the Father, his relation to the Jewish people, and his relation to the world. In so doing they are to edify the Body of Christ and build up its members in the most holy faith. Likewise the members themselves are to encourage and edify one another so that their joint celebration on Christmas Day is such as to be worthy of the event being remembered.
N points to the Nativity of Jesus, Son of Mary
In Christian doctrine Mary is given a unique title, Theotokos. This comes into English via the Latin as "Mother of God" but the Greek is better rendered, "Birth-Giver of God." The baby born from the holy womb of Mary, the Virgin, was truly a human baby. At the same time this infant was a unique boy for he was much more than he appeared to be to human eyes. Only the eyes of faith could recognize his true identity at his Nativity. He was certainly One Person, but he had two natures. One nature, the human, he received from Mary, but the other nature, the divine, he possessed from all eternity as the eternal Son of the Father. He was Immanuel, "God with us."
T points to Transcendence
It is possible so to treat the biblical accounts of the Nativity (Matthew 1 & Luke 1-2) that we treat them as merely and only belonging to the horizontal plane. This is very obvious in much of the commercial use of the Christmas story and in the over sentimental use of the crib and of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, the shepherds and animals therein. In the Nativity, and events surrounding It, the transcendent world enters the world of space and time as God visits and redeems his people.
The Collect for Advent.
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son. Jesus Christ, came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and for ever. Amen.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon