This morning my wife and I were asked to perform the ceremony of lighting the Advent candles at church. I was asked to give a brief summary of why we celebrate Advent. This is what I said:

There is a tragic scene in Ezekiel where the prophet sees the glory of the Lord leave the temple. It goes out the East Gate, departs Jerusalem and heads to the Mount of Olives, where it, presumably, ascends to heaven. It passes out of human experience and never returns to this temple. This divine visitation of God is called the “Shekhinah” Glory. “Shekhinah” - from the Hebrew word for “dwelling” - represents the visible presence of God among His people. When the Israelites were led out of Egypt from slavery to freedom, the Shekhinah glory led the way. When the Law was given to Israel at Mt. Sinai, the Shekhinah glory was there. After the Tabernacle was built, the Shekhinah glory resided in the most holy place above the ark of the covenant. When Solomon built the first temple, the Shekinah glory dwelt there. Rabbinic literature even states that the Shekinah glory sits at the right hand of God in heaven.

But in Ezekiel’s time it’s gone. In the intervening years, a new temple is built in Jerusalem, but there is no record of the presence of the glory of God. Until the night when a child who is the light of the world is born in Bethlehem. The night when the Shekinah glory is swaddled in rags and placed in a feeding trough. The night when everything changes and the world will never be the same again. And this is why we celebrate Advent!