THE WHAT, WHY, AND HOW OF ADVENT
As our modern American calendars flip to their final page noting the ending of another year, the Christian calendar is already starting its “New Year” Celebration in the season of Advent. The church’s calendar begins here because it parallels and narrates the life of Christ: his birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and time of filling the church with the Spirit (known as Ordinary Time). As one person writes about the church calendar, “Time here revolves around the person of Jesus.” The church year is meant to be an extended commemoration and invitation to enter into the gospel, seen in the life of Christ.
Traditionally, the season of Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas, this year beginning on December 2nd. As we prepare to enter this Advent Season I want to highlight the what, why and how of Advent.
WHAT IS ADVENT?
Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus which means “coming.” Historically, this has been a time when the church both looks backward and forward to the two advents – or comings – of Christ.
Beginning its new year, the Church looks backwards to the first coming of Christ in his incarnation. In this season, the church remembers what it was like for the people of God who were longing for the birth of the Messiah – the promised seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15), offspring of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), and true son of David (2 Samuel 7).
But this is also a time when the church looks forward to Christ’s second advent. Christ has come, yet not all things have reached completion – we are still a people who are waiting for the ultimate fulfillment of all of God’s promises. In Advent, we confess that the infant who drew his first breath on Christmas day has yet to speak his final word.
In this way there’s a tension in our celebration of Advent. We look back remembering Israel’s waiting and longing. We give thanks for Christ’s birth which brought the initial fulfillment of God’s promises. But we also remember that we too are a people who are waiting and longing, perhaps with a bit of holy impatience, eagerly anticipating the second coming of Christ.
WHY CELEBRATE ADVENT?
While there are many reasons to celebrate Advent, I want to highlight two reasons you should consider celebrating Advent this year.
Advent increases our anticipation and longing for Christ’s return.
First, Advent increases our longing for Christ’s return. As Christians, we’re waiting for more than just Christmas morning, we’re waiting for the return of Christ. The day when he comes in glory and everything sad comes untrue.
In a world that is filled with reminders that things are not yet as they should be. Where we’re constantly aware that there’s a brokenness in our world and in our lives that no cart full of Black Friday bargains can fix, our anticipation for Christ’s second coming should grow.
Jesus, the one who was, who is, and who is to come (Revelation 1:8), will return and when he comes at the end of the ages he will make all things new (Revelation 21:5).
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
Our prayer in Advent is the concluding prayer of the Bible as we cry out Maranatha, ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’
Advent fortifies our confidence in the promises of God.
Secondly, as our longing for Christ’s return grows, Advent reassures us that this longing is not in vain. We’re not looking forward to something that we simply hope might happen because in Christ’s death and resurrection we have a blood-bought confidence in our future hope.
In looking back to the fulfillment of God’s promises in Christ’s first coming, we’re reassured that He will come again. Advent reminds us of God’s past faithfulness and strengthens our confidence that he will keep all of his present and future promises to us (2 Corinthians 1:20).
HOW TO CELEBRATE ADVENT?
By God’s grace, there are many great resources to help you and your family enter into this meaningful season as you look backwards and forwards this Advent.
- Jesse Tree – This is one of our favorite family traditions and a great way to include all your kids, especially the little ones. Link includes the clip art to create our own ornaments as well as some other Advent resources.
- Prepare Him Room – Another great family resource, especially for those with little kids, has lots of fun activities.
- Love Came Down at Christmas – A new Advent devotional by Sinclair Ferguson connecting the incarnation of Jesus to God’s great love for his people which is the source of all our celebrations this time of year.
- Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional – An Advent devotional by Paul Tripp that will help you slow down, prepare your heart, and focus on what matters most during this season: adoring our Savior, Jesus.
- The Dawning of Indestructible Joy & Good News of Great Joy – two eBooks by John Piper with daily Advent meditations which aim to keep Jesus at the center of your holiday season.