“Advent is about preparing our hearts while we wait for Jesus to arrive. Since the Middle Ages, this tradition of Advent has encouraged us to slow down and reflect on Jesus coming in person and to look forward to the time that He has promised to return. In the midst of a busy holiday season, we pause. We anticipate. We wait”
Count Down to Christmas
Rooted in a tradition spanning centuries, the modern Advent calendar has been around since the 19th century, initially involving simple acts like tallying chalk marks or lighting a candle each day leading up to Christmas. Today’s Advent calendars, often featuring small treats or devotional messages, serve as a reminder of the anticipation and hope inherent in this period.
Explore the Meaning of Advent
The word “Advent” means the arrival — or coming — of a noteworthy person, event or thing. In this case, we’re talking about God coming to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. ‘The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas’.
This preparation is echoed in the words of Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Advent is the anticipation of that birth.
Marking the Four Sundays
Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Depending on where Christmas falls on the calendar, the total number of days can vary between 22 and 28 days.
Celebrate Jesus’ Coming
Christians throughout history have considered Advent to be a celebration of different comings. Examples include the preparation of Christ’s baptism and the Second Coming of Christ. But since the sixth century, Advent has traditionally been a celebration of Jesus’ first coming — the season leading up to Christmas Day.
The Gospel of Luke describes this miraculous event: “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2:6-7, NIV). This moment marks the fulfillment of God’s promise and the beginning of a new hope for mankind.
Identify the Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace found in a Wreath and Candles
The tradition of the Advent wreath, originating in Germany in 1839, involves lighting candles nestled in an evergreen wreath, symbolizing eternal life. Each of the four candles represents different themes – hope, faith, joy, and peace – reflecting the spiritual journey of Advent. As we light each candle on the Advent wreath during these weeks, we recall the prophetic words from Isaiah: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2, NIV).
The readings provide an opportunity for all, young and old, to engage in the season’s spiritual journey, reflecting on Christ’s first coming and anticipating his second. Our traditions include a fifth white candle, symbolizing Christ, lit on Christmas Eve.
Celebrate the First and Anticipating the Second Coming of Jesus
The first Advent anticipates Jesus’ arrival to earth in the form of a baby (Christmas). The second Advent anticipates Jesus’ Second Coming, when He returns in all His glory to establish His kingdom on earth and judge the world. ‘Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these ‘last days’, as God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom’.
Christians live every day with the eager anticipation of the Second Coming. As Revelation says, “’Look, he is coming with the clouds,’ and ‘every eye will see him, even those who pierced him’; and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him.’ So shall it be! Amen” (Revelation 1:7, NIV).
The next-to-last verse in the Bible, Revelation 22:20, has become the hopeful expression for Christians of every generation. “He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” The words “Come, Lord” in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:22, NIV) are a translation of the Aramaic word “Maranatha” — a term still used in Christian worship today.
See Old Testament Prophecies Fulfilled
The Old Testament is chock-full of allusions to Jesus Christ. For instance, Isaiah foretold the coming of Jesus with these words: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, NIV), and “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6, NIV).
Whether it’s God telling Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, then intervening and providing a ram substitute (Jesus’ substitutionary death on our behalf) — or Jonah spending three days in the belly of a great fish (Jesus’ burial and resurrection) — all of the Old Testament points us toward the coming of Jesus Christ.
Celebrating Advent is more than a ritual; it’s a reminder of the hope and joy brought about by Jesus’ birth. By incorporating these traditional practices, your Advent season can become a time of deeper spiritual reflection and anticipation, connecting more profoundly with the meaning of Christmas.
- Cru – https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/life-and-relationships/holidays/advent/what-is-advent.html
- Crosswalk – https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/life-and-relationships/holidays/advent/what-is-advent.html
- GotQuestions – https://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-Advent.html