The church I was raised in made a big deal about Advent – every Sunday we lit a new candle in an Advent wreath, and new verses were read… and I seem to remember all Sunday school lessons during the month of December also focuses on the Advent wreath and the coming celebration of the birth of Christ.
But to be honest, it didn’t mean a thing to me. I never understood why we focused on that Advent wreath on the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas – singing Christmas songs were enough for me in church, and why not just start saying, “Christmas is coming!” the way the rest of the world was doing? I knew that Christmas was about the birth of Christ, but really… to me it was about the presents and “holiday spirit.”
Once I became a Christian, the understanding of Christmas deepened – but I still never really understood Advent. Why do I need a wreath and candles to point me toward the fact that Christmas is celebrating Christ’s birth? Why not just focus on that fact, and prepare your heart the way the Lord wants you to?
I was missing the point. Advent is not about the wreath that many use as a part of their Advent celebration – the word ‘advent’ is Latin for ‘a coming or arrival’. And the season or “celebration” of Advent is actually preparing your heart – not only thanking God for Christ’s first coming to Earth as a baby, but also for his presence among us today through the Holy Spirit, and in preparation and anticipation of his final coming at the end of time.
As I began preparing for this upcoming Christmas (in October!), I decided to be deliberate about Advent this year. I want Elias and Donovan to grow up with the full understanding of Christmas and what it means. I started to prepare a study and activities to learn more about God’s gift to the world…
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16
The idea behind Advent is that God came to earthly life and lived among us. It is something to celebrate, because just by being in it, God was giving the supreme blessing to the created world.
But Christmas is not something you rush into. We need to consider what baby Jesus was here for. While we celebrate the baby and His birth, the adult Jesus and His execution are also in sight. God loved us and wanted to share that love. To rescue the world from evil, God chose to come here and walk the earth, to grow up, to live the truth, and to die. And all of that to give us the greatest news – that death will not end it all.The only way to start such a thing is as a baby, and the only way to be a baby is to be born. Christmas is centered in the new hope brought by a baby, and Advent leads us up to that baby.
It’s a time to get ready by rejoicing that our God is not far away and unfamiliar with the struggles of human life, that Christ is here right now among His followers, that God has already begun to bring in the Kingdom, and that Christ will come again.
“…lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
Please join us in December as we prepare our hearts, our homes, and our families to celebrate the birth of Christ. We promise times of reflection, fun crafts and activities, and most of all, a Christ-focused preparation!