Advent and Washington Crosses the Delaware

December 2, 2017

What is this time of Advent truly about?

During the revolutionary war, a spy, loyal to the British cause, learned that Washington had crossed the Delaware River during the night and was marching on Trenton, New Jersey, where a force of Hessians were encamped.

The spy appeared at the headquarters of the Hessian commander, Colonel Johann Rall to warn him but the spy was refused entrance. The Colonel was busy, deeply engrossed in a poker game. In desperation the spy wrote his warning on a scrap of paper to be given to Rall but the Colonel stuffed the note into a pocket without reading it and continued his game.

When the Hessian soldiers began firing their muskets in a futile attempt to stop Washington's army, Rall was still playing cards. As a result the American colonists won their first major victory in the war for Independence.

Advent is a time for us to remember to be watchful and alert. The world around us swirls with holiday shopping, Black Friday deals, and non-stop advertising for pre-Christmas sales. They almost get it right. For Christians it is, paradoxically, a time for us to reduce our attachment to worldly things and to remember what it is we truly prepare for. Though the world around us would have us believe otherwise, this is a somber time, almost reminiscent of Lent. Advent is a time of preparation for the One who is to come. Advent is a time to reflect upon the beginning and the end of all things.

Advent is a time of spiritual preparation, and meditation. But with each passing day our anticipation grows and our joy increases. Think of it like a pregnancy. An expectant mother’s attitude is one of restrained joy. She prepares for the coming of her child into the world, but does not allow herself to fully experience the joy until her child is born. Advent is like that, we prepare and wait, celebration will come later.

Advent is about the coming of Jesus in the past, and the anticipation of His coming in the future. With the birth of Christ we enter into the Third Age of Man and celebrate the New Covenant. During Advent we prepare for the moment when eternity touches the earth, when God becomes man and comes to live among His people.

But the Master has travelled abroad and left us, His servants, in charge. We have each been given work to do while we wait for the Master's return. And so Advent is also a time to prepare for Christ's second coming at the end of all things. There will be a new Heaven and a new Earth for the old will have passed away and we will enter the Fourth Age of Man.

Jesus told His disciples to be watchful and alert for we do not know when the Lord of the house is returning. Will He find us ready and prepared, having fulfilled the tasks we were given? Or will He find us busy playing cards?

Pax Vobiscum

This post first appeared at

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