What is Advent?

Many people know or have heard of the advent season. They may have even participated to some degree such as those cheap calendars with the disgusting chocolate inside them. You know the ones; you open little doors or windows or some such thing and get a piece of waxy chocolate. What many people do not know is what advent actually is, what it represents, or the importance of viewing the Christmas season through the lens of advent.

Many denominations have celebrated or recognized advent for centuries while some have come along more recently. In today’s religious circles it’s not uncommon for Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, and so on to acknowledge or celebrate advent. It’s also becoming more popular in evangelical circles as well, though only time will tell if that’s because it’s the “cool” thing to do or because it’s their desire to seek to recognize, celebrate, and honor Christ through this special time of year. What exactly is being discussed or celebrated when we refer to advent? Advent, when translated, means “arrival” and that is exactly what we seek to commemorate and celebrate.

However, there is a twist: we’re not just celebrating the first advent but also another one as well. The first advent we all know quite well: Christmas, the birth of the Messiah. The second advent is less recognized, his glorious, triumphant second coming or his return. It follows the biblical pattern that we see in the scriptures: Israel waited expectantly for their messiah to come and Christians wait expectantly for his second coming. For the Christian, advent is a time in which we look back to the birth of this messiah, recognize why he had to come, and then we look forward to his second coming. Traditionally, advent is seen as a time to prepare our hearts for Christmas and for Christ’s eventual return (and the judgement he will bring upon creation).

As a matter of practice, there are as many different ways of celebrating the advent season as there are churches celebrating advent. Even the celebrating of advent itself is a matter of personal preference/conviction for the individual or, in the case of the churches, the individuals leading each church. There is no right or wrong way in which one approaches advent or if they even should or shouldn’t approach it to begin with. However, the principles on which advent centers, the birth of Christ and his eventual return, are principles and beliefs which should impact our daily lives regardless of the season.

It does not make you a better Christian and it is certainly not required of us, but advent does serve to refocus and recenter ourselves on what the season is truly about. In that is the simple yet powerful reason for advent: remembering who Christ is, what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do. As we move into this advent season it should be the prayer on our hearts that we glorify him and remember his wondrous work on the behalf of his people. Let us truly remember that he is the reason for not just this season but for every season as we go through every day of our lives. While we deck the halls and jingle the bells let us not lose sight that the real purpose of this time is because joy has dawned and let all glory be to Christ.

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