At no point in the year is it clearer than now that we Christians don’t tell time like the world does. The world speaks of the Christmas season as if it starts right after Thanksgiving (or Halloween!) and ends at Christmas, whereas the Christmas season for us starts on Christmas Eve and ends on January 5th (the day before Epiphany). We might still put up our Christmas trees or listen to Christmas music before the Christmas season officially starts; there’s no harm in that. But we recognize that we’re currently in the midst of something other than the Christmas season: we’re in the season of Advent.
The word “Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” During this season we join with the Old Testament saints in praying for the coming of Christ, since we await His return as they awaited His first coming. At the same time, we reflect on Jesus’ humble coming in the flesh two thousand years ago and how He still comes to us humbly in the Gospel and Sacraments. We pray things like, “Stir up Thy power, O Lord, and come” (Ps. 80:2; first Sunday in Advent) and “Stir up our hearts to make ready the way of Thine only-begotten Son” (second Sunday in Advent). The verb “stir up” in both cases means “wake, rouse from sleep.” We pray that the Lord would rouse Himself and come for our salvation, and that we, as we wait, would not fall asleep, that is, fall away from Christ. Advent is a wakeful, watchful season as we look for Christ and cling to His promise, “Yes, I am coming quickly” (Rev. 22:20).
The world, naturally, ignores the Advent season. It doesn’t want to think about a coming judgment or the return of Christ. It loves its stuff, and so steeps itself in materialism, abusing the Christian practice of gift-giving in order to root around in its mammon like a pig in the mud. In short, the world can’t tell time. It does not know the time of its visitation (Lk. 19:44).
When Jesus speaks about the signs of the end of the world (which have been happening since the birth of Christ), He tells His Christians, “But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk. 21:36). Because of this Word of our Lord, we are concerned with watching for His coming, and at Mount Hope Lutheran School, we’re concerned with imparting this watchfulness and wakefulness to the children, waiting for Christ in faith and not slumbering in oblivion with the world.
So in chapel our readings have turned to the first chapters of Matthew and Luke as we anticipate the coming of Christ. We sing the Benedictus, Zechariah’s song (Lk. 1:68-79). We sing Jeremiah’s prophecy about the coming of the Christ: “this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jer. 23:6). We sing Advent hymns and follow the themes of each Sunday of the Church Year. Miss Engwall’s class made Advent calendars to anticipate the coming of Christ at Christmas, and the students learned the basics about this season of Advent. Miss Hahn is teaching the 3rd-5th class and her Latin III class the Latin names for each Sunday of Advent, what they mean and where they come from (Ad Te Levavi, Populus Zion, Gaudete, Rorate Coeli). Mr. Hahn is teaching his Latin I class to sing “From Heaven above to Earth I Come” in Latin. In the upper level English classes I go through the prayer from the previous Sunday and talk about it grammatically and in relation to the Church Year. All the teachers play Advent music in the classrooms. Besides, all the students are preparing for the upcoming Advent midweek service, memorizing hymns and parts and generally steeping themselves in the season.
Christ is coming. The world would like to forget this and prefers not to know the time. As for us, we straighten up and raise our heads, because our redemption is drawing near (Lk. 21:28).