On November 22, 1928 Ravel’s Bolero premiered at the Paris Opera. The work was showered with superlatives from the premier performance. Words such as spectacular, unprecedented, overpowering were used to describe the music. The orchestral scheme is simple but well worked out. The melody is first sung by the flute and then by one after another of the solo winds. As the crescendo gains momentum the brass begin to add their robust statement of the theme. After the melody has been reiterated by varying combinations of instruments, the whole orchestra participates in a final overpowering volume of sound leading up to the end. Simply put, Bolero is a processional crescendo that has been popular since the day of its premiere.
Have you ever thought of the Advent season as a crescendo?
What is Advent? The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning coming. It is believed that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the feast of Epiphany. During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas.
However, by the 6th century, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.
Today, the Advent season consists of four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these “last days” (, ), as God’s people wait for the return of Christ. The church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s first coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season
The birth of Jesus is His first Advent, and the anticipation of His return is the second Advent. Thus, Advent is more than simply marking an event in history. It is celebrating a truth about God, His plan of redemption in Christ whereby we can be saved and reconciled to God. In this focus on both past and future, Advent also symbolizes our spiritual journey as individuals and a congregation, as we affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today and our lives, and that He will come again in power. The spirit of Advent is expressed in the parable of the bridesmaids who are anxiously awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom (). There is great joy at the Bridegroom’s expected coming. What about you, are you excited?
This coming Advent season focus not on the material things and happenings of the world but focus on Christ. There are many resources available to guide you through the month of December and Advent focusing on Christ and Bible reading. Just like Ravel’s Bolero builds in intensity as it progresses, I pray that your Advent season is similar, your love for Christ and your obedience to Christ increasing as we celebrate his birth and anticipate his return!
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams; (ESV)
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (ESV)
25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (ESV)