Before the After: Devotion in the Advent Season
by Dr. Dan Sharp
Have you ever wondered what the point of Advent was? When it began? Isn’t it just a thing that “liturgical churches” do?
Where does Advent come from?
Here is a little historical background: Advent emerged around the late 4th, early 5th century in Spain or Gaul. It was not initially associated with the Nativity but rather with Epiphany on January 6. Originally, it was a forty-day fast in preparation for new converts’ baptisms on Epiphany. The baptism of Christ was a central theme of Epiphany. (Advent had the same concept as Lent in this regard, as Easter was the primary time for baptisms in the Early Church.) By the 6th century this season became associated with the Second Coming, the return of Christ, hence, the word Advent, meaning “coming,” from the Greek parousia. It was not until the Middle Ages that Advent became associated with the birth of Christ.
Presently these two foci shape Advent as it is currently observed, the first two weeks center on the Return of Christ and the Coming Judgment. The final two weeks turn our attention to the Nativity.
The theology behind it.
The theology of the season is tremendously rich. We begin with the reigning King of kings and conclude with the humble birth of the Incarnate Baby. The season is about three comings of Christ: his birth as a baby, his coming into the hearts of all who put their trust in him, and his final coming to judge the world and establish his eternal kingdom. We have the account of God stepping out of the timeless dimension of eternity into a fragile, fallen world measured by hours, days, years and millennia. Part of the celebration of Advent is in the wonder of the Incarnate God. But the nativity must always be seen in the context of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.
As part of our observance of these days, we have prepared a new daily Advent Devotional that includes the roughly forty days from Advent to Epiphany, entitled Before the After. Each day’s writing contains an Old Testament prophecy and a New Testament fulfillment of that prophecy, with a brief discussion of the relationship between the two and its implication for our daily living. We've made the devotions available for free not only for our church, but to the world (people from 29 states and 7 countries subscribed last year), to help people establish a habit of reading and encountering the Lord of Scripture each day. There are also musical links, artwork, and historic prayers for each day; and it simply shows up in your email when you subscribe. By working in both Testaments, we are attempting to help all of us understand the presence of Christ throughout all of Scripture. These theological devotionals contribute to our endeavor as followers of Christ to grow in discipleship and maturity in our Christian faith and walk. Join with us. ●
Dr. Dan Sharp is our Minister of Worship and teaches The Christian Year at the
Robert E. Webber Institute of Worship Studies. firstname.lastname@example.org