It's that time of year again -- Advent. It's always tempting to skip over Advent and jump right into the euphoria of Christmas Day -- after all, the rest of the United States began gorging itself on Christmas cookies in October. But, I believe something is lost when we rush through the beautiful, reflective season of Advent.

One of my favorite elements of Advent is its dual purpose -- it's not just a liturgical season carved out for reminiscing over the days before Christ, but a time set aside to anticipate Christ's second, glorious coming. Like the ancient Israelites we wait in anticipation of an event we can only dimly imagine -- an event where all that is right, good, and truthful will come to fruition in His perfect timing.

Gaining Perspective

"And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." Luke 1: 30-32

Today, the Christmas story is easily taken for granted, even among Christians. Our ears have become numb as we've heard the story countless times and in varied settings -- the angel's appearance to Mary, Joseph's dream, the road to Bethlehem, the lack of room in the inn, the birth in a lowly stable, the appearance of nearby shepherds. The Nativity has acquired a certain quaintness in American culture -- something to smile at while we bustle about decorated shops trying to check every name off our lists. Yet when we take time to prepare for this moment in salvation history, to reflect on the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ, a sense of awe returns. How can we put Christ's first coming into perspective -- and thus better prepare for His second?

There is a special chant sung at every Christmas Eve service at my church that sufficiently wipes away the cuteness of Christmas for me. Join me for a moment in this yearly tradition.

It's midnight. As we enter the church, all is dim except candles twinkling like stars in the night sky. The church -- formerly decorated in purple for Advent -- is now adorned in glistening gold, white, and red. Everything sparkles in the candlelight. Children and families take their seats in the pews, shuffling about, anxious for the ceremony to begin. A man takes the podium and all attention focuses on him. In a low, deep, smooth voice he begins to chant:

"In the twenty-fourth day of the month of December;

"In the year five-thousand one-hundred and ninety-nine from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;

"In the year two-thousand nine-hundred and fifty-seven from the flood;

In the year two-thousand and fifty-one from the birth of Abraham;

"In the year one-thousand five-hundred and ten from the going forth of the people of Egypt under Moses;

"In the year one-thousand and thirty-two from the anointing of David as king;

"In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;

"In the one-hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;

"In the year seven-hundred and fifty-two from the foundation of the city of Rome;

"In the forty-second year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus;

"In the sixth age of the world, while the whole earth was at peace; JESUS CHRIST eternal God and the Son of the eternal Father, willing to consecrate the world by His gracious coming, having been conceived of the Holy Ghost, and the nine months of His conception being now accomplished, (all kneel) was born in Bethlehem of Judah of the Virgin Mary, made man. The birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the flesh.