In the churches where I’ve served and attended it seems that we’ve lost our sense of longing for Christ’s advent. I really appreciate the rhythm of the liturgical calendar that sets aside four weeks of advent. It may come as a surprise to those of us who are “low church” that liturgical churches do not sing Christmas carols until Christmas eve . Advent is supposed to be a time of reflection on our need for Christ and our desperate need for Him to come to us. It is also a time to anticipate second advent. I know that I need to spend time longing for Christ’s arrival – to be born anew in my own heart, and for His eventual return in which he sets the world aright. This longing for Christ is an essential antidote to my own tendency toward smug self-sufficiency, and all of the folly that flows such an erroneous point of view.
I find that my longing is short circuited by jumping right to celebrations of Christ’s birth, and I am poorer because of it. I’m not advocating that all of our churches return to a strict observation of the church calendar. There are many good reasons to spend all of December celebrating Christ’s birth, not the least of which is the opportunity it provides for churches to reach out to their communities through concerts, dramatic presentations and other artistic celebrations. I am advocating that each one of us take time this advent season to reflect upon our profound need for Christ to come and be born in our own hearts, and to express our longing for His presence in our lives and in our world.