WHAT IS ADVENT?

 

WHAT IS ADVENT? Let's learn the true meaning and reason for the season of Advent.

Today is the first day of Advent. Many Christians celebrate Advent, the time before Christmas. But what is it? How did it start? What does it symbolize and what does Advent mean for us today? Let’s look at this four week period before Christmas and learn the true meaning of Advent.

The word ADVENT comes from the Latin word ADVENTUS meaning “the coming”. Advent begins on the Sunday closest to November 30th, the feast day of St Andrew the Apostle. Advent continues for four consecutive Sundays before Christmas.  The starting and ending date of advent changes from year to year. 

Advent was probably started in the fourth century and was a time when Christians readied themselves for baptism. In the middle ages Advent began on November 11, the feast day of Saint Martin and would continue till Christmas Day . It was a time of fasting and prayer with a concentration of the second coming of our Lord, Jesus.

In the last fifty years the emphasis has been on the Nativity of Jesus. It is a time of anticipation and spiritual readiness for Christmas day!

The primary symbol of Advent is the Advent wreath. Ancient northern Europeans would light candles on a circle of greens in the dead of dark winter to symbolize ongoing life. The lit candles were a reminder of spring and the coming of lighter days ahead.

By the 16th century Christians had adopted this wreath and used it as a symbol much as we do today. There are four candles on the advent wreath, three purple and one pink. The purple candles, that are lit on weeks one, two and four, symbolize hope, peace and love. The pink candle, lit on week three, symbolizes joy. Each week as Christians prepare for the coming of Christmas they ponder on and pray for hope, peace, joy and love! There are many modern adaptations of the Advent wreath, but they primarily symbolize the same thing.

Sometimes a large candle is lit in the center of the wreath to symbolize the birth of Christ, the Light of the world!

Here at StoneGable, we practice lighting the Advent wreath and using it as a symbol of the true meaning of Christmas. 

But what does Advent mean to us today… and how does it help us draw closer to God and give him glory?

Advent itself is a time of “readiness”. It’s a time to reflect and prepare our hearts for Christmas Day. The day we celebrate the fulfillment of many prophesies about the Christ.

FOR A CHILD WILL BE BORN TO US, A SON GIVEN TO US

AND THE GOVERNMENTS WILL REST UPON HIS SHOULDERS.

AND HIS NAME  WILL BE CALLED WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, ETERNAL FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE. Isaiah 9:6

AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US AND WE SAW HIS GLORY, THE GLORY OF THE ONLY BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. John 1:14

THEREFORE, THE LORD HIMSELF WILL GIVE YOU A SIGN; BEHOLD A VIRGIN WILL BE WITH CHILD AND BEAR A SON AND HE WILL BE CALLED IMMANUEL (WHICH MEANS “GOD WITH US”). Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1 22-23.

There are many more fulfilled prophesies about the birth of Jesus, these are just a few. 

But as we reflect and prepare for celebrating the first coming of Jesus, Advent is also a time to also prepare for Jesus’ second and imminent coming!

“MEN OF GALILEE,”THEY SAID. “WHY DO YOU STAND THERE LOOKING INTO THE SKY? THIS SAME JESUS WHO HAS BEEN TAKEN FROM YOU INTO HEAVEN, WILL COME BACK IN THE SAME WAY YOU HAVE SEEN HIM GO INTO HEAVEN.” Acts 1:11 

MAY GOD HIMSELF, THE GOD OF PEACE, SANCTIFY YOU THROUGH AND THROUGH. MAY YOUR WHOLE SPIRT, SOUL AND BODY BE KEPT BLAMELESS AT THE COMING OF OUR LORD, JESUS CHRIST. 1 Thessalonians 5:23

And Jesus said…

BEHOLD, I AM COMING SOON. MY REWARD IS WITH ME AND I GIVE TO EVERYONE ACCORDING TO WHAT THEY HAVE DONE. I AM THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA, THE FIRST AND THE LAST, THE BEGINNING AND THE END. Revelation 22:12-13

The bible is full of prophecies of Jesus’ second “advent” or coming to planet earth! 

Jesus’ purpose for first coming, what we celebrate at Christmas, was to save the lost.

Jesus said,  THE SON OF MAN CAME TO SEEK AND SAVE THE LOST. Luke 19:10

Jesus came to save you and to save me because we were lost in our sins and therefore, dead to a relationship with God. 

Jesus’ second coming will be to judge the whole world and to rule it forever!  We who are saved by Jesus’ first coming will be safe from His judgement. 

 

During the Christmas season, the true meaning of Christmas and Advent can get buried in all our preparations… of our homes and gifts and food and gatherings. Let’s not forget the most important preparation… that of our hearts! Let’s use this Advent to reflect and remember Jesus’ first coming as we celebrate Christmas and prepare ourselves for Jesus’ second coming as King Of Kings!

You can go on line to find great Advent devotionals to help you prepare your heart during this holy time of the year!

This week’s memorization verse:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Galatians 4:4-5

 

 

58 Comments

  1. In the Orthodox Christian Church, we begin Advent on November 15, for a full 40 days, the same as Lent. Some churches and homes are decorated with greens, a manger or nativity and other symbols of the upcoming Feast Day!
    To quote Fr. Henry Patrick Reardon, “In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the corresponding penitential season of preparation for Christmas always begins on November 15, the day after the Feast of the Apostle Philip. For this reason it is popularly known as St. Philip’s Fast. A simple count of the days between November 15 and December 25 shows that this special period lasts exactly 40 days, the same as Lent.
    More recently Christians of the Orthodox Church have begun to call this season by its Latin name, “Advent.” One now finds the term standard in publications of the Antiochian Archdiocese, for instance. The adoption of the word “Advent” by Eastern Orthodox Christians is inspired by the same reason that prompted the adoption of other Latin theological terms, such “Sacraments,” “Incarnation,” and “Trinity.” Very simply, these are the recognizable theological terms that have passed into Western languages. They also happen to be theologically accurate! If the Christian West can adopt Greek terms like “Christology,” it seems only fair for the Christian East to adopt Latin terms like “Incarnation.”
    (On the other hand, one finds some Orthodox Christians, especially among recent, hyperactive converts from Western churches, who resist the adoption of the word “Advent,” preferring to speak of “Winter Lent” or some such anomaly. One is hard pressed to explain this eccentric, lamentable preference for Anglo-Saxon over Latin on a point of theology.)
    Several other features of Advent deserve some comment:
    First, in the West the First Sunday of Advent is treated as the beginning of the liturgical year. (In the East, the liturgical year does not begin with Advent but on September 1, which bears the traditional title, “Crown of the Year.” Its historical relationship to the Jewish feast of Rosh Hashanah is obvious.) Second, during the twentieth century there arose the lovely custom of the Advent wreath, both in church buildings and in homes. This wreath lies horizontal and is adorned with four candles. The latter, symbolic of the four millennia covered in Old Testament history, are lit, one at a time, on each Saturday evening preceding the four Sundays of Advent, by way of marking the stages in the season until Christmas. This modern practice has already started in some Orthodox Christian homes, where the longer season requires six candles on the Advent wreath.
    Third, because of its emphasis on repentance, Advent is a season of great seriousness, not a time proper for festivity, much less of partying and secular concerns. Advent is not part of the Christmas holidays, and Christians of earlier times would be shocked at the current habit of treating this as a period of jolly good times and “Christmas cheer,” complete with office parties, the trimming of Christmas trees and other domestic adornments, the exchange of gifts, caroling, and even the singing of Christmas music in church.”
    An Advent idea: http://sweetcsdesigns.com/orthodox-advent-calendar-printable/

  2. We are in Germany as I type this. Of course advent wreaths (real greenery) are everywhere. Though I am a believer and our Christmas at our house centers around the birth of our Lord, I’ve never had an advent wreath. That will change. We have filled in for the Internal Baptist Church here in Munich (21 different nations represented) for the past 6 weeks while there pastor is stateside.. IBC Munich meets in the building of an Evengelical German church. Just this past week my husband and our Outreach Leader joined the German church and some of their people as they ministered to some of the refugees here in Munich. The pastor of the German church used the Advent to fully explain the gospel.

    1. Wow, thank you for the insight into what’s going on in Germany. If one refugee is converted to beleive Jesus is our Lord you have earned your place in heaven! Keep up the good work.

      1. June, we can’t earn our place in heaven! We’re saved when we realize we have no righteousness of our own (and can’t do anything to get it, therefore needing a savior) and repent and turn away from our sin and trust that Jesus paid the price for us when he died and rose again. When we do that our sin transfers to Jesus and His righteousness is imputed to us and we are born again of the spirit. Then and only then can we stand righteous and justified in front of our Holy God!
        Have a very merry Christmas and God bless you!

  3. Hope, peace, love and joy. I pray for all of these things in our world today. May this Advent Season be an inspiration for all. Blessings to you on this beautiful Sunday.

  4. Your article has reminded me how beautiful Advent is. It’s been a very long time since we celebrated it with our children. I think it is probably time to teach the grandchildren about Advent. Thank You very much.

  5. Wonderful explanation. My husband is a Southern Baptist pastor and we have had an Advent Wreath at home and at our church for many years in the past. It is such a beautiful way to teach about Jesus. Thank you for adding those teachings to your blog. Merry Christmas!

  6. Beautiful, Yvonne! I think too much of the meaning of Christmas is being squeezed out! I refuse to say “Happy Holidays” I say to one and all “Merry Christmas” and my Christmas cards have a religious meaning. I want God back in our lives. Have a wonderful Sunday!

    1. I’m with you Marisa. I have sent a religious card (the meaning of Christmas) for the last 52 years. I love the saying “HE is the reason for the season”.

  7. Thank-you, Yvonne! I am ashamed to say that I did not remember the meaning of Advent. I always say, your second calling is in the pulpit!!!
    Have a Blessed Holiday…

  8. I truly loved all the history you shared Yvonne. I too celebrate Advent. My blog post today was on hope. My goal this week is to seek out those in need of hope and be the light. Sometimes all it takes is a kind smile to a harried clerk. It is my hope that little kindnesses change the world.

  9. Thank you Yvonne for your blog, which I find so inspiring each week. Thank you for sharing the meaning of Advent with your readers. The true celebration is the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  10. Praise God from whom all blessings flow… Our church has young families (including their children) to light a candle and read Scripture. Advent is a special time to remember the wonders of our Lord.

  11. Thank you! We do not celebrate Advent at our church but have an awareness of preparation of our hearts at Christmas as we celebrate Christ’s birth. I truly enjoyed your blog. An Advent wreath will be a new addition to our dining room table.

  12. Growing up in the Roman Catholic Church the Advent Wreath was the reminder of the true reason for celebrating Christmas. When I married an Episcopalian I was delighted to find out that we had a “family Advent wreath making activity” provided by the church the first Sunday in December. Wrapped florist foam wreaths, fresh greens, candles…the whole works was provided. This naive, new homemaker learned quickly that you MUST place your fresh wreath on a platter before displaying it on your antique wood coffee table. The coffee table mended and so did my pride 🙂
    Thank you again for reminding us that He is always the focus of our lives and that “Jesus IS the reason for the season.”

  13. We are looking forward to lighting the first advent candle of prophecy and hope tonight when our grandchildren come over for dinner. Blessings

  14. You know our Lord was represented in the Bible as a lamb….did you ever think that lambs are born in the Spring of the year ? Our Lord was too if you read the scriptures, we celebrate it in Dec. but He was born in the Spring. Just a blessing to know that He came into this world just to save us , heal us and soon take us to our Heavenly home .Looking for that day.

  15. Several Protestant churches use blue candles instead of purple, representing more the theme of hope rather than the penitential purple. Often candle one is also called the prophecy candle (hope), the second the Bethlehem candle ( preparation), the third the shepherd candle (joy), the fourth the angel candle (love) and a 5th white Christ candle in the middle. In the United Kingdom the candles are often red.

  16. Great Gospel sharing, Yvonne! Thank you! Our church had our first week of Advent today, as we will light a white candle on Christmas Sunday. Thankful that it all came together, as our supplies were a bit difficult to find this year in our supply room.? Thankful that He was glorified, even through the bit of stress!

  17. I love the advent celebration–and yes, we usually have an advent wreath making workshop in our church as well. I think that celebrating advent, and the lighting of the next candle on each successive Sunday, helps us stay focused on the true holiness of the Christmas season. May you and your family have a beautiful advent, Yvonne. Thanks, as always, for your inspiration. You’ve become an important part of my life.

  18. Thank you for sharing the meaning of Advent. Your blog is a blessing! It is so easy to get rushed through the Christmas season that we sometimes forget what the true meaning of Christmas is. God Bless you and your family!

  19. The advent wreath is a simple and lovely way to focus on the Savior each Sunday.We are going to start this tradition as it was introduced to us by some German friends who invited us to their home for Second Advent.

    I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (often called “Mormons” which does not really express our focus on Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of our religion). This year, world-wide, our members are encouraged to do a simple kind act a day, as a gift to Christ.

    It does not really include the many ways we normally serve our families and others, but is an effort to choose to do something, however simple, and be mindful that it is to show your love for Christ by serving and encouraging others.

    For me Christmas music is so beautiful, if carefully chosen it can set a happy but calm spirit in your home for the season. We are blessed with music from hundreds of years past to help us remember Christ as the focus of our Christmas. It is a joyful time.

  20. I enjoyed reading your explanation of what Advent is as well as the previous comments posted. Your commentary has sparked a number of interesting replies. Gods blessings to you and your family Yvonne.

  21. Yvonne, you are such a blessing to us with your posts! I always look forward to reading them! You are a wonderful teacher and always have such great devotionals.

    Bless you, my friend, with a wonderful week!

  22. Thank you for your detailed history and explanation of Advent! I didn’t grow up celebrating Advent but as an adult have come to love this part of the holiday more than the rest. I’ve enjoyed Bonhoeffer’s ‘God is in the Manger’ and Wangerin’s ‘Preparing for Jesus’ the last several years but was ready for something new. I just ordered ‘From Heaven’ by Tozer this morning (a little late!) and am looking forward to digging into that this Advent season!

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