Advent: “Coming” to What?
Advent, according to Dictionary.com, is a word of Latin origin with several similar meanings:
- A coming into place, view, or being; arrival.
- The coming of Christ into the world.
- The period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ into the world.
- Second Coming.
I like the first definition. The second irritates me. It’s not true. The third is true. The Christian liturgical year starts with Advent, which always comes four Sundays before December 25.
The fourth definition bugs me. I don’t believe in Second Comings, and I don’t understand why so many misguided people keep hoping the world will end so Jesus and his mighty army will arrive and kill everyone who doesn’t believe the right religion.
That’s total nonsense—especially if one accepts the fact that there are two to four trillion (that’s twelve zeros) galaxies out there, and the galaxy in which the earth exists is comparable to a grain of sand on Waikiki Beach. That’s rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things. How and where is this Second Coming going to start?
I digress. Back to business.
I thoroughly disagree that Advent is solely about the coming of Christmas, especially if one understands how the date of Christmas became December 25. According to the Roman calendar, December 25 was the shortest day of the year (our calendar says the shortest day is December 21 or 22). It was known as the winter solstice and was reportedly a drunken holiday—happy hour began at 2:00 p.m. So, in 330 CE, Christianity, now the official religion of the Roman Empire, established December 25 as the birthday of Jesus, even though all the evidence suggested that he was born in the spring. The arbitrary date of December 25 has nothing to do with truth—nor do the two stories about Jesus’s birth.
The first appeared in the Gospel of Matthew about 90 CE, some ninety-six years after Jesus’s birth, which is dated as 6 BCE with calendar corrections. This wild story tells how some Magi, or wise men (no mention of how many), came to visit Jesus at a house (yes, house) under a star that had “stopped,” which is an impossibility. Next, Herod the Great was accused of murdering all male babies two years of age and under (didn’t happen). Baby Jesus and his family escaped to Egypt (Matthew 1:18–2:23).
The other story is found in the Gospel of Luke, which was written over a hundred years after 6 BCE, and is even longer and wilder. It claims Jesus was born in Bethlehem and visited by shepherds. This would have been a bad idea—Bethlehem was freezing cold at night, the sheep had to be sheltered, and shepherds didn’t work in the winter (Luke 1:1–2:40).
These stories don’t have an element of truth to them. They’re metaphors designed to answer questions about Jesus’s heritage.
When I was small, Christmas was still a sacred holiday. But in the ensuing decades, it has become a crazy time with parties, frenzied gift buying, Black Friday, cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, elaborate decorations, lists of who’s naughty and who’s nice, card sending. and on and on. So, I have given up Christmas as a religious holiday and don’t really care what merchants want to do with it. I still thoroughly enjoy the season as a secular holiday and look forward to the parties, greeting cards, and family gatherings.
Advent, to me, is the coming of another year in which I have a rich opportunity to review the life of my guru, Jesus, and examine how well I am following his greatest commandment—to love self, neighbor, and Creation.
What think ye?