Advent is a wonderful time of the year. Alas, it often gets swallowed up by an extended Christmas (and by the way, Christmas doesn't end on 25th December — that's just when it starts), but in reality it has a wonder and significance all of its own.
Advent is a time of waiting, longing and expecting. Not a time of counting down the days until Christmas, but of waiting for the Lord's promised Deliverer. Not of longing for and expecting the excitement of Christmas morning, but of longing for and expecting the presence of our Saviour. In Advent we look forward to the coming of the One who has come and who is to come.
You see, the reason I love Advent is because Advent is all about Jesus. Advent is a season that points us away from ourselves and to Christ. It's a season when we're reminded that all we can do is wait patiently for the Lord; we're reminded once again that we cannot work for our salvation, but only wait for Him who brings salvation.
And as we wait patiently on the God of our Salvation, Advent is often a time when we turn out attention to the longing and expectation of God's people in the Old Testament. We identify with them in their longing as we sing “Rejoice, rejoice, Immanuel shall come to thee O Israel”. We may not be Israelites waiting for the coming of the long-promised Messiah, but we identify with them in their longing. For, like them, we are exiles far from home awaiting the appearing of our great Redeemer.
We're like them, but we're not like them. For, although we await His appearing, we know that our Redeemer has already come. As we look forward in anticipation of His return, we also look back in thankfulness and wonder to the victory He has won. Israel awaited a Saviour who would fight for them, but we await the return of a triumphant Saviour who has already fought for us and won!
That's why we raise our voices in Advent not only to sing “O come, o come Immanuel / And ransom captive Israel”, but also "Lo! He comes with clouds descending / Once for favoured sinners slain”. The Hope of Israel and Desire of Nations has come — “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again!” That's what Advent is all about — waiting with longing and expectation for Jesus who has come and who will come again. So Advent reminds us of that great prayer of the Church, “Come Lord Jesus!”