Three Teaching Points for Advent by Sarah Bentley Allred
“Christmas is a big mystery. We do not understand how exactly God comes to be among us in human form. Taking time to prepare to celebrate Christmas allows us to enter more fully into the mystery. As we say in Godly Play, if we don’t take time to get ready for Christmas, we could “walk right by this mystery” without ever really experiencing it. And so, we spend the four weeks before Christmas anticipating and preparing for the coming of Christ.
“Advent has a double spiritual meaning. While we are anticipating the arrival of the birth of Jesus, we are also anticipating the arrival of the second coming, when Jesus will return for the Final Judgement.
1. Anticipation “Advent is a season of preparation, expectant waiting. We are preparing to remember and to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is a time to practice waiting, a universal experience for people of all ages. During this time, we remember the prophets that foretold Jesus’ birth (see Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6-7, Jeremiah 23:5-6) and the nine-month journey of Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus (see Luke 1-2, Matthew 1).
“People prepare to enter the mystery of Christmas in different ways. You might invite members of the congregation to explore how Christians intentionally anticipate Christmas through song, prayer, scripture, liturgy, service, Advent wreaths, or Advent calendars.
2. Incarnation “During Advent, the core of what we are waiting for, anticipating, is the Incarnation, God becoming human. As Christians, we believe that God loves us, and all of creation, so much that God became embodied in the form of Jesus. The Incarnation is an incredible mystery—we do not know exactly how God became human. God’s action in taking on flesh sanctifies our flesh – it makes holy the skin we wear. Advent provides an opportunity to explore what the Incarnation means for our lives.
“What does God living in a body mean for our relationship to the human body, our body as well as the other bodies in this world? What does God’s choice to inhabit the body of a baby mean?
3. Immanuel (or Emmanuel) “Each Advent every church I know sings, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (Hymnal 1982, #56). Immanuel is one of the names for Jesus found in scripture (Isaiah 7:14), it means “God with us.” The season of Advent anticipates God’s time on earth in the person of Jesus. During this time God was with us in a special way. God’s presence with us in human form means that God knows what it is like to be human.”