Millennials and their offspring, the Generation Z, are largely unaware of the meaning of ‘Advent’ and even our Calendar is under threat as the flight from all things Christian continues to gather pace in the West. They have ‘Thrown out the Baby with the bathwater’ and part of the bathwater was the Advent Calendar.
The Calendar was usually produced on two A2 piece of cardboard with 24 small ‘flaps’ cut in the front of the card. These flaps are numbered 1 to 24 and referred to the first 24 days of December.
Popular versions of the calendar would have gifts behind the flaps. Some of these would be religious such as the gifts of the wise men – the Magi (St Matthew Chapter 2 verses 1 to 12) but in the main they would be children’s toys. The one thing they had in common was they culminated on Christmas eve with the Babe in the manger. This was usually the largest flap which, when opened, revealed the stable filled with animals, shepherds, angels and Joseph and Mary all gazing upon the infant Jesus lying in a hay filled manger.
The popularity of these Calendars, which were usually opened at breakfast, lay in the suspense of the unknown which was revealed one day at a time. It was exciting gifts that lay behind the flaps and there was an even more exciting conclusion that couldn’t come soon enough.
That conclusion was the birth of Jesus heralding Christmas Day which, for children (and adults), meant gifts seen in the calendar and in our imaginations became a reality! The giving and receiving of gifts was intended to remind us of God’s great love gift to us of Jesus.
At some point early in our family history we obtained an Advent Calendar which was based on the Bible. It traced the promises of Jesus coming to earth from the beginning in Genesis Chapter 3 verse 15 when, immediately after the Fall, we are introduced to the “serpent crusher”. He was to be uniquely born from the seed of a woman and would deal satan (for that is who the serpent is) a mortal wound (1 John Chapter 3 verse 8). In the process he would be wounded Isaiah Chapter 53 verse 5).
There are a number of arcs in scripture where they start with a promise and end with its fulfillment. Everything between these events is moving, sometimes in a winding way, towards the promise’s fulfillment. Here in the beginning we are promised a serpent crusher and the fulfillment comes with Jesus – The angel said…he is to be named Jesus because he shall save his people from their sins (St Matthew Chapter 1 verse 21).
In this way was the serpent crusher is ushered into the world. The wonderful two-fold declaration was given to Mary stating that there would be salvation for his people and their sins would be forgiven. All this and much more was accomplished by the cross and resurrection (Hebrews chapter 2 verses 14/15).
Our Advent Calendar is long gone. The reality it portrayed remains. Let the joy of the once crucified now risen Jesus reign in your hearts as we look to the conclusion of the next arc; “And if I go … I will come again and take you to be with me” (St John Chapter 14 verse 3).