What is advent and why do we celebrate it as part of the church year? What does the word Advent mean?
- What is Advent?
- 4 Ways to Celebrate Advent & Make it Meaningful
- Advent Resources
What is Advent?
Advent is the season of the church year when we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Christmas.
Advent has 4 weeks, and technically continues past Christmas on December 25, when we celebrate Jesus birth, and to Epiphany (the visit of the wise men) on January 6.
The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word for “coming”. We reflect on Jesus’ coming at Christmas and also prepare for when Jesus comes again on the Last Day.
Why Celebrate Advent?
The two words I think of most when I consider Advent are “come” and “prepare”.
During the season of Advent, we reflect on Jesus coming. It always seemed a bit strange to me to spend the month of December in church talking about Jesus coming, as if we were waiting for it, when we know he already came as a baby at Christmas.
Yet this is the remembering part of Advent.
Each year, we reflect back on the life of Jesus and all that he did for us.
Fully God, Jesus was and is perfect in every way. Jesus became fully human in the form of a baby, then suffered and died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins so that we can have eternal life with him in heaven someday. This is our most amazing gift.
During Advent, we prepare.
During Advent we prepare our hearts for Christmas. Just as important, we prepare for when Christ will come again on the Last Day, the judgement day spoke about in Revelation and other parts of the Bible.
Whether that is after we die or while we are still alive, that is an important day for all people. We hope all people will know Jesus and come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4).
So we can say the coming of Christ has 3 parts — past, present, and future.
- Past – Christ came as a baby to Bethlehem.
- Present – He comes to us today through his Word and Sacraments (baptism and Holy Communion).
- Future – We look forward to his coming again on the Last Day.
4 Ways to Celebrate Advent & Make it Meaningful
Here are ways to celebrate Advent this year.
1. Worship at church and home
Many mainline churches have worship services during the week during the Advent seasons, in addition to Sundays. These worship services are a wonderful way to step aside from the Christmas hustle and focus on the true meaning of the Christmas season — the baby born in Bethlehem who is the Savior of the world.
You can also worship at home by having devotions, singing songs, lighting a candle, and reading God’s Word.
2. Light the Candles on an Advent Wreath
An advent wreath is a way to honor the Advent season in your home. Many churches have them, and you can purchase one of your own and use it every day with your family.
We have one at our house at part of our Christmas decorations and keep it set up on our dining room table. We use it during our family devotion time and the kids take turns lighting and putting out the candles.
The tradition of using an advent wreath dates back to Germany even before the Reformation.
Traditionally, the colors of the candles on the advent wreath have significance. Three purple candles and one pink are used.
The three purple candles, which also match the purple paraments (cloths that decorate the altar area at the front of the church) are to honor the royalty of the coming of King Jesus. (Note: Some churches use blue paraments for Advent to distinguish this season from Lent, which is also purple.)
The pink candle is used during the third week of Lent as the candle of Rejoicing. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4
We use a white candle in the center of our Advent wreath as the Christ Candle. This is lit on Christmas day in remembrance of the coming of the Christ child. In some traditions, this is lit during the 12 days of Christmas.
How to Use an Advent Wreath
I created this graphic with directions for how to use an Advent wreath and included a printable version which you can download in the Grow Your Faith printable pack in the box below.
3. Read Advent Devotions for Adults and Children
Many people have a short Bible reading or devotion every day during the month of December, especially one that specifically prepares our hearts for Christmas.
Here are a helpful resources for Christmas devotions for adults. (If you know of other good ones, please post them in the comments below.)
30 Days of Christmas Bible Readings – Free printable with a daily Bible verse to read each day in December.
Show Up at the Manger – A Christmas devotion.
Lutheran Hour Ministries — Advent Devotions
Follow the Story – Daily Advent Devotionals – Marva Dawn
Advent Devotions for Kids and Families
Here are some great devotional resources for children.
Little People A Christmas Story
4. Use an Advent Calendar
An advent calendar is a similar way to count down the days until Christmas. There are secular and Christian versions available, but I especially enjoy ones that remind me of the birth of Jesus and help me encourage my children to keep in mind the true reason for the season of Christmas.
An advent calendar can be a little chocolate to open each day, a small gift, or a symbol like a present to put on a tree or another piece of the nativity to put on the set. There are all types of advent calendars now, even this Lego advent calendar my kids have had their eye on. (If your kids love legos, be sure to check out this Lego sermon.)
If you are looking for a Christian alternative to Elf on the Shelf (although we do Elf on the Shelf and have a lot of fun with it — and that’s okay, too), check out this Star From Afar.
I love this concept for a reverse Advent calendar. Get a box and every day during the month of December, put in an item to donate to a food pantry. On Christmas Day you’ll have a full box to take.
How does your family make Advent meaningful? Share about it in the comments below.
What is Advent? — good video
Unwrapping the Gifts — Worship resources. Includes free devotions and kids bulletin inserts.
Free kids advent coloring page
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room
More Christmas Posts You Will Love
Free Printable Nativity Activity Book for Kids – Free printable workbook for toddlers and elementary school children to learn the meaning of Christmas.
What is Epiphany? – Learn about the coming of the wise men at Epiphany.
3 Christmas Blessings for Your Children – How to say a blessing over your children this holiday season.
My Holiday Hope Toolbox – If you struggle with depression around the holidays, this resource is for you.
Pin This Advent Information for Later
Grow Your Faith with Helpful Printables
*How to Do a House Blessing
*How to Use an Advent Wreath
*Bible Verse Cards
Nancy Blonski says
You can add my husband’s Christmas devotional book,
In My Father’s Footsteps
Christmas 2016 Edition
Nancy, Thanks for the resource! To clarify, I see the podcast in the link, but where can we get the book?