I grew up knowing the time after Thanksgiving but before Christmas as the “Christmas Season.” It was always a mixture of Santa, reindeer, Jesus in a manger, and presents galore.
In more recent years, I have come to celebrate a slightly different season at this time of year. One known as the Advent Season. Let me tell you a little about it.
What is Advent? Advent simply means “coming” or “appearing.” If I take a trip to attend a 3-day conference and then return home to my family, the day I get back is the day of my advent. Or perhaps a fitting illustration is that Christmas Eve night is the time of Santa’s advent for many a boy and girl.
What is the Advent season? For generations, God’s people waited for the coming of the Messiah. These were long, dark, cold years. At times, God would speak through a prophet, reassuring the people once again that He would one day make good on His promises. But as the decades turned to centuries in waiting, we can hardly be surprised that many gave up hope of this future coming one.
Then, just like that, He was here. Born in a barn. Laid in a feed bin.
Advent begins four Sundays prior to Christmas day. It is a season of anticipation and preparation for the celebration of the coming of the Messiah. Advent reminds us of the longing that our fore-fathers experienced as they anticipated the first coming of the Messiah.
Just like them, we also share in their longing during the Advent season as we await the Christ’s second advent. Yes the days may seem long, the heart-ache great, and the night dark and cold, but just as before, He will come again. Of that we rest assured.
So what is different about Advent? For me and my family, we have found Advent to be a richer and fuller expression of what this season entails. Rather than simply being “the most wonderful time of the year” as we are encouraged to merrily bounce through the season, Advent makes room for the richer expression of what the season entails.
Yes there is longing for Christmas day, and presents bring extra joy to that celebration, but there is a deeper longing. It is a longing for a day when the sorrows of this world will pass. When the joy of His coming will surpass the scars and wounds life by this life. When “Joy to the world, the Lord is come” will not seem out of tune with the realities we see around us in broken families, communities, and lives.
The longing of Advent is really aching for the day when the world’s true king will come to set everything straight and make everything right.
What do you do to celebrate Advent? Well, there are no set rules. Since we celebrate this with our church family as well, the services, Scriptures, songs, and sermons help to prepare our hearts this time of year. There is a traditional candle lighting in the service each Sunday that marks the passing of the weeks and the drawing near of Christmas.
In addition, we have nightly family devotions that reflect on Christ’s first and second advent. There are lots of good devotional books for this that you can find online.
This may seem like nothing all that special. But for us, it has helped us to re-focus on what this season is truly all about.