Advent is Latin for “the coming.” It can be traced back to the Romans, who spoke of the Advent of Rome and the Advent of Caesar. The Romans believed all of human history had been building to the climax of the Roman Empire. The Pax Romana, the peace of Rome, was the hope and salvation of the world. Kingdoms had risen and fallen for millennia, leading to further bloodshed, tyranny, oppression and futility. No ruler had arrived and no kingdom had emerged that could guarantee all of humanity the peace and prosperity which they had craved. Yet the Romans proclaimed a good news. They called this news the euangelion. They believed hope and salvation had finally arrived in the coming of Rome and of Caesar. Euangelion is the same word early Christians would repurpose to describe the message of Christ they called the Gospel.
Caesar’s reign was the good news spread all over the earth at the time of Jesus’ birth. Early Christians believed that another King, Jesus the Christ, had come and that another Kingdom emerged. This King and Kingdom were the real hope and true salvation of the world. They claimed that it was not through political maneuvering, financial leveraging, or military muscle that the world would find order. They believed this Christ had shown the Way and given of his Life with such a power that every aspect of humanity would be transformed. They spread His good news about this inbreaking Kingdom of God.
In the same way that Romans celebrated the Advent as the coming of Caesar’s rule, the early Christians began to celebrate another Advent for the coming of King Jesus’ reign.
So the first Christian Advent celebrations weren’t just solemn or reverent reminders of the Christ child. These 1st century Advents were defiant revolutionary acts that called into question the fundamental presuppositions of the dominant values, allegiances, infrastructures, and ways of living of the rest of the world.
How does the Advent of Christ challenge our 21st century values, allegiances, and priorities? How can this advent season be lived in the expectant hope of Christ’s Kingdom? How does the Advent of Christ shape our perspective of what truly matters this season? How might this change how you spend your time, (re)connect with others, and where you look for God?
What if we approached these advent weeks as messengers and embodiments of the already inbreaking reign and Way of Jesus?