Advent: What, Why, & How?
Advent is one of those terms that is often heard thrown around towards the end of the year around late November and into December. Perhaps you have heard of it before? Perhaps you have heard of Advent Calendars? Maybe you have even seen or used one! I am always intrigued by the variety of Advent Calendars out there, and the anticipation as to what might be revealed each day is something I find fascinating. However, what exactly is Advent? Why is it part of the church calendar? And how do we celebrate it?
What is Advent?
The word “advent” is defined as “the arrival of a notable person or thing”. For Christians, Advent is the four-week period leading up to Christmas Day during which we anticipate the arrival of our Saviour, Jesus. Traditionally, Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. This year, it will be starting on Sunday, 3 December; although, some Advent calendars and other resources begin on December 1.
Why Celebrate Advent?
There are several reasons why I would encourage you to celebrate Advent. Here are some of them (which have been taken and adapted from an article written by Ryan Shelton for Desiring God).
1. Advent Helps Us To Refocus
At a time of year when celebratory parties are in full swing, presents are being bought, and minds are turning towards holidays and the start of a new year, Advent is an opportunity to shift our focus away from our current stresses and all the plans we have for our holiday break. It then helps to refocus us on a plan far grander than anything we could ever come up with and one we desperately need – God’s redemptive plan for the world.
2. Advent Aligns Us with Those Who Have Gone Before Us
Just as we align ourselves with the saints of old when we recount words like the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed, so too does Advent help us consider what it was like to be a people waiting for their Saviour to come. Generation after generation after generation had waited for Jesus’ coming, and Advent gives us an opportunity to appreciate a little bit what that might have been like.
3. Advent Slows Us Down
Do I need to say it again? The time leading into Christmas is SO busy. Participating in Advent is a fantastic way to pause and slow down. Taking time to reflect is so important; yet, at one of the most important times in the Christian calendar, it is one of the last things on our minds. Yes, Jesus has come, but do we really stop to think about what that means? What does Jesus’ coming mean for salvation history? What does it mean for me? How should Jesus’ coming impact who I am and how I live today (and tomorrow)?
4. Advent Reminds Us of God’s Faithful Promises
While Advent slows us down to consider Christ’s first coming, which we celebrate at Christmas, it also provides the perfect opportunity to be pointed towards Jesus’ second Advent. As we look back on the faithfulness of God in fulfilling his long-awaited promise to send a Messiah, we can also look forward full of hope and assurance to Jesus’ second coming, knowing that this too has been promised by the very same God who is faithful to keep his promises.
How Do I Celebrate Advent?
There are a number of ways of celebrating Advent, whether on your own, with a spouse, with housemates, or with your family.
According to the Bible Project, some Christians will spend the first two weeks of the Advent season reflecting on Jesus’ second coming and the New Heaven and the New Earth, while they will spend the second two weeks of Advent considering the birth of Jesus. Some focus on a different weekly theme – hope, peace, love, and joy; while others might light Advent candles and/or read specific passages from the Bible to reflect on Jesus’ birth. Advent calendars are also a classic resource.
Several devotional resources have been made for you to be able to work through on your own or with your family. A few that I would like to recommend are:
- Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul David Tripp,
- The Dawn of Redeeming Grace; Daily Devotions for Advent by Sinclair Ferguson
- Love Came Down at Christmas: Daily Readings for Advent by Sinclair Ferguson
- A Jesus Christmas: Explore God’s Amazing Plan for Christmas by Barbara Reaoch
These resources (and others) can be sourced from Koorong or the Reformers Bookshop.
In closing, I encourage you this Advent to slow down and spend some time intentionally reflecting on the birth of Jesus and the promise of his second coming. May this help you find peace, hope, joy, and love amid what is otherwise a hectic time of year. I would love to hear what God is showing you and how he is working in your life as you do so.
Keep trusting Jesus,