View the full stained glass window by clicking here.
The short answer is, "Not so much."
It is instead about preparing the Church--and especially those preparing for baptism during this season--for Christ's return to raise the dead, judge the living and the dead, and complete the new creation.Advent begins the church year by refocusing the church on the end, the culmination of all things in Christ. We start at the end so we can understand what the beginning of the end of all things, in which we are still living, means for us and for all creation.
This is why the readings for the first three Sundays in Advent each year do not focus on the birth or childhood of Jesus at all. Instead, we hear Jesus talking about the end of all things (Advent 1), followed by two Sundays in which we hear from John the Baptist in often frightening terms what the "one who is to come" will ultimately do (Advent 2 and 3). Advent 4 brings the first glimpses of the events leading or relating to the birth of Jesus, events that bear witness not so much to a baby born as to the beginning of the radical reordering of all things that the arrival of this baby portends.
Advent is not intended to prepare us for baby Jesus. It is intended to prepare us for what we need to focus on during Christmas Season.
Readied by Advent for the scale of the upheavals underway and still to come, we come to Christmas Season to celebrate and contemplate their beginnings.
Even in Christmas Season, only one day focuses on the birth of Jesus at all: Christmas Eve. Christmas Season as a whole is instead the celebration and contemplation of the marvel of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us (Christmas Day), along with everything God's coming and dwelling among us has unleashed and continues to unleash in this world. This is why Christmas Season so prominently features such horror stories as the slaughter of innocent children and families forced to become refugees right alongside the terrifying appearance and joyous proclamation of angels to shepherds and the journey, adoration and presentations of gifts to Jesus by Persian astrologers. When the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us, the order of this world finds itself threatened and set askew, because a new order, the kingdom of God, has drawn near in Jesus.
By the stark preparation of Advent for what is to come, we are also made ready not so much for a baby born long ago as for what it means to dwell here and now in this world as the One born that night continues to make all things new.
This content was produced by Ask The UMC, a ministry of United Methodist Communications.