Are you counting down the days before Christmas? Whether we use a wall calendar with openings for each day or read a daily Bible verse to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, observing advent helps keep Christ at the center of Christmas. As believers, we wait and watch for the arrival of celebrating the date of a man who came to earth more than two thousand years ago. Jesus Christ came to earth and changed everything. But why focus on waiting for someone who has already come? So glad you asked. Perhaps you’re wondering “what is advent all about?”
Focusing on Advent helps to creatively pass the time, and also brings spiritual meaning to the weeks and days before the Christmas comes. Advent is celebrated on the four Sundays before Christmas Day. The application of Advent centers on the Old Testament prophesies which tell of the coming Messiah. This prediction was prophesied 600 years before the Messiah’s birth. At that time, the Jewish people were being held prisoners in captivity in Babylon. For centuries, faithful Jews anticipated with great expectation and hope the Deliverer-Messiah that would ‘ransom captive Israel.’
Advent means arrival or coming from the Latin word adventus with the idea of waiting and watching for the arrival of something or someone. The Greek word is paraousia which means second coming of Christ. First, as we remember the waiting that took place before Jesus Christ arrived, we can identify with the impact he made on those living during that time and allow the events to influence us today. Second, Jesus will come again. As we set December aside for remembering, we invite God to prepare us spiritually for the second coming of Christ. And yes, the holiday season is about each of those activities but it can be so much more. I challenge you to set aside time this season to practice Advent.
Advent represents the coming or arrival of Christ in three ways:
- Commemorating Christ’s birth and walk as man and savior.
- Celebrating Christ’s presence in us now through the Holy Spirit.
- Preparation for Christ’s return as judge.
There are numerous ways to incorporate Advent into our Christmas traditions, several to consider, and as in any tradition, these may take time to implement. The key for our family was that we understood the meaning behind Advent. Advent is a time of prayer, commemoration, celebration, and preparation. Advent is the beginning of the Christian liturgical year and is commemorated on the four Sundays before Christmas, running through Christmas Eve, followed by the 12 days of Christmas 12/25 – 1/5 (the journey of the Magi to the baby Jesus) and Epiphany 1/6 (the celebration feast of the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ, the visit of the Magi, Jesus’ baptism, and the wedding at Cana). Common practices during this season include Advent calendars, singing daily devotionals, fasting, wreaths, candle lighting and scripture reading from the Old Testament. The four Advent candles are lit one each Sunday of Advent and the fifth on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
One of my favorite ways of celebrating Advent the first week, is to sing “O come, O come Emmanuel” and read selected scriptures such as Romans 8:19-21, Psalm 88, Psalm 13, Genesis 6:5-18, Isaiah 66, Psalm 16, Revelation 21:1-7, Zephaniah 3:14-20.
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is a greeting sung to anticipate the coming Messiah. The melody and verse was originally used in the medieval church liturgy as a series of short musical statements: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.”
Christ came not only to be Emmanuel, God with Us, but to ransom us from the captivity of our sins. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.
O Come, O Come welcomes the coming of Christ as a newborn. Emmanuel, recognizes the baby King Jesus as God with us.
Let’s pray for a Christ centered Christmas –
“Dear Father God, thank you for sending your son, Jesus as Emmanuel, God with us. Help us Lord, not to lose our way as we wade through the added tasks we have during the Christmas season. Help us to keep you first in all we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen”
I’ve included an Advent e-book. Regardless of what you decide to do, I hope you will join me in preparing our hearts for Christmas. Abide in hope, peace, joy, Love as we welcome Jesus Christ, the Baby Jesus. I am praying for you – Sheryl