This year, more than ever, I have noticed a tangible excitement for the Advent season. More shops are creating and selling Advent material. More families are asking how they can prepare their hearts for the true meaning of Christmas through the observation of Advent. In a culture that glorifies instant gratification, believers are choosing to lean into the beauty of waiting.
But what is Advent? Is it in the Bible? Do all believers have to observe it?
Advent simply means "coming" or arrival". It is a season marked on the church calendar – four Sundays before Christmas – and it has been celebrated by the church for centuries. Advent is an opportunity to experience the longing that God's people felt awaiting the Messiah (the first Advent). It also recognizes the current season of waiting that God's people are in as we await Christ's return (the second Advent). This tradition simply recognizes the truth that God's people are continually in a season of waiting because this is not our home. Though Advent is not explicitly commanded in Scripture for believers to observe, the practice of remembrance is something that God's people are all called to do. Observing Advent is a tangible way of remembering the truth that the hope and joy and peace of Christmas is truly because of Christ alone.
Waiting is hard. Waiting with great anticipation is even harder. However, as we intentionally lean into the anticipation of Christ's first arrival symbolized by Christmas, we are able to more fully experience the beauty of Christmas morning. Instead of declaring "Jesus is the reason for the season" on Christmas day, we rehearse that truth for weeks leading up to the celebration, kindling the anticipation!
There are many ways to observe Advent:
- Some families have a wreath with 4-5 candles. These candles are traditionally represented by the words hope, peace, joy, and love. Every Sunday of Advent, one new candle is lit. The candles remind us that Jesus is the Light of the world and the source of true hope, peace, joy, and love. If you want to avoid actual flames, the Daily Grace Co. has a set of interactive Advent Candles Cards where little ones can "light" a candle each week with a crayon!
- Some families go through a devotional together. The Daily Grace Co. has a family Advent devotional with accompanying Christmas ornaments to guide you through the weeks leading up to Christmas.
- Others use different resources that can coordinate with the Jesse Tree tradition or Handel's Messiah.
- Some people decide to devote their personal Bible study times to focus on Advent. Immanuel: God with Us from Eden to Eternity from the Daily Grace Co. is a 4-week study (for men and women) that traces the theme of God's nearness throughout Scripture. The truth that God is us with changes the Christmas story and our very lives.
- Others read, study, and meditate on Luke 2 or other passages related to the birth of Christ.
- Be sure to check to see if your local church has scheduled services specifically for Advent. Many churches offer their own devotionals to walk through the season of Advent together as a body of believers.
Though the approach varies, the heart of Advent is calling to mind the Truth that can so easily be forgotten in the busyness of the holiday season. As we enjoy the excitement of Christmas twinkle lights, extra time with family and friends, and even gifts and food, may we intentionally remember that Jesus is the reason for the season, the Light of the world, and the One we eagerly await to return. May we be people who remember – Jesus is who He says, and He will do what He says. He will return again, not as a baby, but as the victorious King!
Advent begins on December 1st this year (less than a week away!). Although Advent is not a mandatory observation for believers, the question remains: how will you and your family prepare your hearts for the truth meaning of Christmas this year?