The Essence of Advent

by A. Maeve McDonald

The Latin word, adventus, means “coming.” The advent season is about preparing our hearts, minds, and spirits for the coming of the King. But what does this really mean?

Is it about celebrating Jesus’ birthday? Is it about keeping Christ in Christmas by displaying nativity scenes and retelling the story of Jesus’ birth? Is it about singing carols, giving to the needy, wishing others a Merry Christmas! and enjoying the festivities of the season? Yes, yes, and yes! It includes all of these things.

But the advent season is about more than these things alone. The Bible clearly teaches that believers are called to wait expectantly for our King’s second coming, for all Scripture points to Christ’s triumphal return on the clouds. Isn’t this what we ultimately look forward to? Isn’t this the culmination of it all? Indeed, the concluding words of Scripture, the last verses in the book of Revelation, contain a powerful pronouncement:

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Rev 22:20)

The advent season, as we count down to Christmas, not only looks back to that lowly stable in Bethlehem, but also forward to what is yet to come. For as we celebrate Jesus’ humble birth, we also anticipate His glorious return.

The early believers, in the face of severe persecution, took great comfort in this promise, encouraging one another by saying in Aramaic, “Maranatha!” which means “the Lord is coming,” in place of the customary Jewish greeting, “shalom.” Still today, maranatha reminds us that our hope is not in this temporal world, but in the eternal Kingdom that is to come (Luke 21:28; Rev 22:12).

So, what does Scripture say about waiting for Jesus? Obviously, biblical waiting isn’t to camp out in the desert and stockpile weapons in preparation for Armageddon! But it isn’t like sitting idly at the bus stop either. Scripture illuminates several ways in which believers are to wait for Jesus…


Faith Actually: The Essence of Advent