I suppose everybody’s noticed that Christmas sales are advertised on television long before Thanksgiving, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen an “Advent Sale” or anything remotely resembling an encouragement to prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. What would an Advent Sale be like? No sale at all, really. People might bring out to their sidewalks all the things they do not need, for anybody walking past to take at their pleasure. That’s a lot easier to do with your household than with your soul.
“Hm, honey, do you think I should get rid of this scrap of pride here? I’m awfully fond of it.” “You may be fond of it,” your wife says, with a touch of a smile, “but I don’t know that anybody else ever was.”
An advent, you see, is not just any old approach of something or other. We don’t await the advent of the dog running back to the house after we’ve called out, “Here, Duke, here, boy!” An advent implies the approach of something—in our case here, someone—that will shake the world, perhaps to its foundations. But that still does not capture the full force of the word. Suppose you are an astronomer, and you see a great asteroid apparently hurtling from nowhere, about to strike the earth dead-on. That sure will shake the world, and it will be a surprise, but I don’t think we’d call the approach an advent, no more than if a poor drunken fellow were to step unwarily in the path of a speeding car. But when Cornwallis found himself hemmed in by land and sea at Yorktown, and he surrendered to George Washington, a wise observer might well say that the sun rose on the advent of a new political era.