What You Always Wanted to Know About Advent

Lisa Haynes

Advent is the countdown to Christmas that starts four Sundays before the big event. Maybe you’ve seen Advent calendars with numbered flaps that hide small items behind them. There’s a surprise for each day leading up to December 25 — the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus.

But for many who are followers of Jesus, counting the days till Christmas is about more than finding a piece of chocolate or a tasty cookie...

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.

We look forward, but we also look back. And we look within.

We Look Back

Advent means “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.” More than 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, God arrived humbly in human form — as a helpless baby. It was such a pivotal event that the world still counts years forward or backward from that time. Thousands of years before this birth happened, God promised to send a savior to rescue “all peoples on earth” (Genesis 12:3, New International Version).

We Look Forward

No one knows exactly when, but the Bible clearly says that Jesus is coming back to earth. This will be the second advent. Jesus will bring the entire world to accountability, and He will reign over creation with perfect love and perfect justice. For Christians, this promise of peace and goodness deepens our hope in God. It also fuels our desire to live in cooperation with Him.  

We Look Within

In the early church, Advent was a time of fasting, of turning away from sin and of prayer. Most Christians no longer fast during this season, but the prelude to Christmas is a time to quiet our hearts and draw close to God. We refresh our hearts and minds when we share them with Jesus our Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, English Standard Version).

Other ways to slow down and focus during Advent can be arranging special wreaths and candles, having family activities, following a seasonal Bible-reading plan or reading a daily Advent devotional.

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