The word advent comes from the Latin prefix ‘ad-‘ meaning ‘to’ and the root ‘venire’ meaning ‘come’. The English word is derived from the Latin ‘adventus’ meaning ‘arrival’.
Advent in the Christian tradition is preparation for the arrival of Christmas and includes the 4 Sundays and weeks leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus. That’s the religious dimension. In a larger context it is about Light, a dominant theme in all major world religions as well as among the indigenous peoples of the earth.
Being in sync with the seasons, as the waning daylight of late Fall signals the approach of winter, we, in the northern hemisphere. celebrate the return of the Sun with winter Solstice, this year on December 20. Fire and light are traditional symbols of celebrations held on the darkest day of the year. The winter solstice is the day of the year with the fewest hours of daylight, and it marks the start of astronomical winter. After the winter solstice, days start becoming longer and nights shorter as Spring approaches, thus we celebrate the return of the Light. Light overcomes the dark.
For those in the Christian tradition, Jesus is often referred to as the Light of the World. In Buddhism, Light is one of the most universal and fundamental symbols. Light is the source of goodness and the ultimate reality, and it accompanies transcendence into the Nirvana of Buddhist doctrine. … It is the Sun, and it is the avenger of evil forces and Darkness. In Hinduism, light has a special significance, especially during Diwali or the ‘Festival of Lights’ when the triumph of light over darkness is celebrated with lamps and fireworks. The Light of Islam is the Light of the Divine Presence, which is God. The lamp is one of the more powerful symbols used in all these religions including Judaism which celebrates Hannukah and the miracle of the oil by lighting the candles on the menorah.
We have been in some rather dark times in the past 9 months in the midst of a global pandemic, “like the world has never seen.” Life as we knew it in the beginning of the year 2020 has changed immensely for most people. As of November 29, there were 266,000 reported deaths in the United States from Covid 19 and 1.46 million in the world. 13.3 million cases in the U.S. alone which for many caused serious illness and complications short of dying. The economic impact has been felt deeply by those who lost jobs, some who have lost housing as well. The cars in food lines stretch for miles in many cities and food banks are desperately trying to meet the needs of so many families.
There is hope on the horizon in the form of vaccines which are proving effective and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the scientists in labs, front line workers in health care as well as all the first responders. Remember too all the other essential workers in grocery stores, law enforcement, and others who are critical for human health and wellness. Schools have struggled to maintain a semblance of meaningful learning and for many families, children were at home meaning they needed supervision and monitoring.
While the light at the end of this dark tunnel is there, it often seemed distant, yet it has remained constant. That is the nature of hope and light. They are eternal, not merely temporal. It’s also a reminder that we are temporal, not eternal, and while we are here now, we need to do all we can to support one another and our communities as we prepare for the days ahead. The light is coming and for that we can be eternally grateful. Whether you light candles, build a fire, string up some lights or simply sit and wait, know this. The light always returns. Celebrate that!