A Feature Review of
Advent : The Season of Hope
Tish Harrison Warren
Reviewed by Linda Lambert
Advent, one of six short books in the Fullness of Time series from Intervarsity Press, reflects on one of the major seasons of the church year, “kicking off the entire cycle of the liturgical calendar.” Although Advent falls toward the end of the Western calendar, it is a significant reminder that the beginning of the church year brings new life, born in the coming of Jesus Christ.
Each of the five chapters– Yearning, Longing, Crying Out, Stirring, and Approaching– covers a key consideration of our present day practices in preparation for the celebration of the incarnation. The Advent season is taking note of the grace-given gifts from God, among them repentance, healing, and restoration. Just as we receive these gifts, we are reminded that Advent is a time to be givers also.
Advent is the season of preparation for Jesus’s birth, the incarnation, the long awaited Messiah. In the same way that the people of the Old Testament entered a spirit of preparation, we too are in readying mode for celebrating Jesus’s birth, reminded of Old Testament people whose hope and longing rested in Emmanuel, God with us. Mary embodied generations of preparation and waiting. As the present day universal church longs for the coming of Jesus, we recall that “2000 years ago when one teenage girl, her belly swollen with life, waited to go into labor. Mary more than anyone else in Scripture embodies the vulnerability of joy and worship” (74).
Advent, Warren believes, should slow us down. We are to make time to ponder the incarnation and the fullness of the coming King before the rush of the hectic Christmas season ahead. We are to “intentionally step away from noise, hurry, and crowds” (96). Simultaneously, the season is “marked by anticipation. We feel that in our liturgy and rituals” (29). Advent candles and calendars are ways to mark time. Liturgical prayer books usher us into Advent-centered prayers.
Cyril of Jerusalem links our Advent season with the future coming of Christ,
“[W]e preach not one Advent only of Christ, but a second also, far more glorious than the former. For the former gave to view His patience, but the latter brings with it the crown of the divine kingdom…in His former Advent, he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger, in His second He covers Himself with light…In the first centuries He endured the cross…in the second He comes attended by the angel host, receiving glory” (63-64).
Advent is the season of grace. We watch for ways in which Christ continues to come into our world, how he enters our lives today by means of grace through Scriptures, baptism, and the Eucharist. This grace is God at work. He comes to us through the Holy Spirit. Advent asks us to decelerate, be still, and rest. Warren suggests there is no right way to keep Advent, but highlights the practice of three primary spiritual disciplines: prayer, fasting, and giving.
Advent is a season of hope, and also carries themes of dissonance, “We live between Christ’s finished work on the cross and His finished work on the throne” (20-21). True hope, she says, “acknowledges the pain and sinfulness of our world and of our own lives. Hope brings redemption and comfort as we pause to invite the light of Christ into our lives.” Advent holds together many tensions— time and eternity, presence and absence, longing and fulfillment (105).
Linda Lambert, a retired librarian of Taylor University, lives in between the farmland of Indiana and mountains of Colorado. She is a volunteer ESL tutor, dog owner, world traveler, and she hopes to read 100 books by the end of the year.
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