The Meaning of Advent
Advent is the season in the Christian year of preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Advent is a time to remember our longing and need for a Messiah, as well as look forward to our Savior's second coming. The word "advent" comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming." During the Advent season we wait and hope in prayerful expectation, crying out together, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."
In the midst of holiday celebrations, Christmas carols, and exchanging gifts, Advent is meant to be a time of remembrance. In Advent we remember that we live in darkness and exile. We remember that we are crying out to God to save us. We remember that God promised us a Messiah and a new reign. We remember that the promise to us is Jesus Christ who has come and will come again.
Some people grow up with Advent traditions. For others, the concept of Advent may be new. Observing Advent can not only enrich your celebration of Christmas, but it can also be a powerful, shaping experience in your spiritual growth and relationship with God.
How to Observe Advent
As you prepare for Christmas, you may want to consider observing Advent through the practice of using an Advent wreath. For hundreds of years, Christians have used an Advent wreath and candles to inspire their anticipation and hope for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Through lighting candles, reading from the Bible, and praying, we remember the meaning of Christ's birth, and allow God to prepare our hearts to welcome Christ into our lives.
There is no set meaning for the candles of the Advent wreath, except for the center "Christ candle," which always signifies the birth of Christ. Some people see the candles as pointing to peace, joy, hope, and love. Others may have the candles symbolize key figures in the birth story of Jesus, such as Mary and Joseph, the angels, the wise men, and the shepherds.
I've created a guide for personal, family, or corporate worship that can accompany the lighting of the candles of the Advent wreath. You can use a real Advent wreath and candles, or simply make your own. In the center of the wreath, a white pillar candle like this one can be used. I encourage you to adapt the guide in whatever way fits you and your community best.
Weekly Advent Readings
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Advent Readings and Prayers Week 1: Waiting
Advent Readings and Prayers Week 2: Forgiveness
Advent Readings and Prayers Week 3: Joy
Advent Readings and Prayers Week 4: Coming of Christ
Advent Readings and Prayers: Christmas Celebration
Lord, help us to celebrate the season of Advent, and prepare for the coming of Jesus into our lives.
How do you celebrate Advent? Are there other ways that you prepare for Christmas? Please share in the comments.
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