We don’t know if you’re anything like us, but every year we make a promise to ourselves that this year will be a really special Christmas for our families. That we’re going to really celebrate the season, we’re going to do more than just get caught up in everything that has to happen, and we’re going to really slow down, savor, and enjoy it.
And every year without fail on December 26, we wake up and there’s just a sense of regret. Like we wasted it. We didn’t do everything that we wanted to do. We didn’t really experience Christmas the way that we wanted.
That is every year, until last year.
Last year, we started participating in the Advent season as a church, and we were able to really slow down and see the beauty of what it means for Jesus to have come into the world and take flesh and blood on Himself. It’s a staggering thought. And yet there’s so much busy, so much to do around the holidays that we typically miss this.
Christmas has long since gone commercial, hasn’t it? When many people think of Advent, they think of plucking chocolates from behind the window of an Advent calendar that counts down the days to Christmas. We have the brilliant holiday marketing minds at Cadbury to thank for that. They created the first chocolate Advent calendar in 1958.
ADVENT IS ABOUT SO MUCH MORE THAN A CALENDAR WITH CHOCOLATES IN IT.
I want to take a minute to demystify the Advent season for you. Advent is about so much more than a calendar with chocolates in it—it’s about the coming of Jesus to our broken world.
The word advent actually comes from the Latin adventus, which simply means “arrival.” Advent is the coming, the arrival, of the presence of God Himself— God with us. For hundreds of years, followers of Jesus from a wide variety of church traditions around the world have set aside the four weeks leading up to Christmas as a meaningful season of celebration and anticipation. That’s what we do when we participate in Advent.
In celebration, we remember the earnest expectations and fervent prayers of faithful saints of old who longed for the coming of their Messiah to rescue them from sin and all its cronies. Humanity called upon the name of the Lord, and God answered. He arrived living and breathing and walking among us. Advent is a way to experience their joy as we put their ancient, Spirit-inspired words on our lips as a community.
So Advent is something that really happened, but Advent will happen again. Jesus is coming back. At His first coming, the future kingdom of God burst into the present with Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Our spiritual enemies were disarmed. Yet our world is not what it will be as we await the reign of our good king. We live in the “already but not yet” of Jesus’ kingdom. At Advent, we give voice to “kingdom come” prayers of our own, looking expectantly for Jesus’ return. In that way, this is a season of both celebration and anticipation.
For Christians, Christmas is less sentimental than you think. Advent allows us to be honest about what’s wrong with our world and to freely celebrate Christmas as good news—King Jesus has come; King Jesus will come again!
Beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, each of the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas Eve focus on a different theme of celebration and anticipation—hope, peace, joy, and love.
Jesus said, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). Encountering God is not only possible this Christmas season, Jesus said it’s a matter of opening the door. Will you let Him into your home? He’s waiting.
Advent is a season where Christians remember what it was like before Jesus came and how desperate we all are for a Savior. The four weeks of Advent are an opportunity for you and your family to slow down and remember the arrival of Jesus in your family.
Advent reminds us that not only did Jesus step into human history but that He stepped into our history. When we were living in darkness, separated and cut off from God by our own sinful choices, Jesus came—that’s Advent.