… waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ … (Titus 2:13)
As we begin Advent I thought it might be interesting to look at its history. Advent is simply taken from the Latin word adventus which means “arrival” or “coming”. It is the season which prepares us for the coming of Jesus at Bethlehem, but also has an eye on his second coming. It’s therefore a time of preparation and, traditionally, fasting.
We can see this in the collect for Advent Sunday from the Book of Common Prayer, in which we pray for grace to throw off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light. The collect contrasts Jesus’ first coming “in great humility” with his second coming in “glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick [i.e. alive] and the dead”.
In the West, we find some reference to Advent at the end of the fourth century, but the first clear mention comes in the second half of the sixth century. It is marked from the fourth Sunday before Christmas, although our fellow Christians in the East start Advent in mid-November.
As always, it is good to remember that these are human traditions, and so we needn't be legalistic about them. That said, it is never bad to spend time considering the two comings of Christ!