Linda Downing

Advent is about what?

On learning of the recent agreement that the U.S., France, Germany, Britain, China, and Russia entered into with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world."

It could not have come at a better time. The world shows every indication of the atmosphere of the first century. The Old Testament history of Israel and the nations had reached a climactic moment. Four hundred years of silence followed the rise and fall of the great super-powers: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon (Iraq), Media-Persia (Iran), and Greece. Rome only thought it was in charge. A prophetic voice was coming, the first to shatter the silence, the raucous cry of John the Baptist: "Prepare the way of the Lord" (Luke 3:4)-the cry of the first Advent.

Sunday will mark the beginning of Advent 2013, an expectancy of the true meaning of Christmas that starts four Sundays before the event. Almost everyone celebrates Christmas, whether they believe it is about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, Savior of the world, or they create their own alternative activity. We crave Advent of Joy to counter the ongoing Advent of Danger.

Just as Classic Coke claims to be the "real thing" and says there is nothing as satisfying, so too does a Christian claim that without Christ, there is no "real Christmas."

And, without Israel there is no Christmas. That is something both Jewish people and Christians need to acknowledge - not to mention all others who cling to this holiday with the grip of the zealots who followed the human Jesus, risking their lives to understand who he was and what he was doing. The whole world remains stunned over Jesus' claim to be God: "Is he or isn't he?" is the longest-lasting debate in history.

Those who embrace Judaism do not believe Jesus is their promised Messiah, but they do not deny he was Jewish. Those of us who believe he is the Messiah of us all must also not deny his Jewishness. Only God gives spiritual insight, but until we all get it at the same time, an event Christians believe will be the greatest Advent of Understanding since God blew breath into Adam, the best we can do is to admit to a shared heritage between Jews and Christians. The onus to maintain that relationship is on Christians above all others for we feel the truth of God's choice of Israel as a vehicle for His voice, and we are warned: "I [God] will bless them that bless you [Israel] and curse them that curse you" (Genesis 12:3).

Advent of Joy, Advent of Danger, Advent of Understanding-all of our Advents proclaim the announcement of the first, "Prepare the way of the Lord," and foreshadow the next one that will really count, the Second Advent, the return of Jesus Christ. Hard as we may try, Advent cannot be extrapolated from Christmas.

Christine M. Flowers, columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, recently penned a magnificent manifesto for freedom of speech. She quoted George Orwell: "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

Advent is about what? Expecting God - a truth too many do not want to hear.

Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.

Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at