Advent Is Slow — on Purpose

Who has time to celebrate Advent? That’s my initial thought each year.

But that’s the point. Advent takes time. It cannot be microwaved, it cannot be compressed into 24 hours, and it cannot be sped up to the bustling speed of our daily lives. Advent is slow on purpose, because the slowness of the celebration mirrors the slowly unfolding drama of the Advent of the Savior himself in history.

One old pastor, Octavius Winslow, penned some words in his book The Glory of the Redeemer (1844) that are relevant to this slowing season of Advent:

The entire history of the Israelites was interwoven with a system of symbols and types of the most significant and instructive character. It was thus the wisdom and the will of God that the revelation of Jesus to the Church should assume a consecutive and progressive form. Not a sudden but a gradual descent to the world, marked the advent of our adorable Redeemer.

The same principle of progressiveness is frequently seen in a saving discovery of Christ to the soul. Not by an immediate and instantaneous revelation, not by a single glance of the mind, is Jesus always made known and seen. Long and slow is often the process. Observe, it is a gradation of light. The Sun rises — beam follows beam, light expands, Christ is more known; more known, He is more admired; more admired, He is more loved.

Thus has been the revelation of Christ’s glory to the Church of God. In her infancy she was placed “under tutors and governors, until the time appointed by the Father.” Not prepared to sustain the sudden and full revelation, God disciplined and trained her by various types and ceremonies; thus, wisely, and, it must be admitted, graciously, shadowing forth His dear Son by gradual but increasingly clear and luminous discoveries, until the “fulness of time was come” [Galatians 4:4], when He appeared the great Antitype of all the types, the glowing substance of all the shadows, the full meaning of all the symbols, the “brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of His person” [Hebrews 1:3].

And to reflect the slow illumination, candle by candle the darkness gets pushed back, and day by day we are invited into the slowly unfolding Advent drama.

To this end we developed the ebook, Good News of Great Joy, a collection of readings from Pastor John’s ministry leading up to Christmas. If you’re like me and you initially pass over the idea of a month reflecting on the Advent of Christ, it may be a helpful resource to slow the pace, and to meditate on the “not sudden but gradual descent to the world” of our Savior. You can find the ebook here.