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 prophesies 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!