Advent is a beautiful time to remember God’s promises to send a Messiah and how Jesus Christ fulfilled those prophecies.
The warm glow of Christmas tree lights filled the living room. Six-year-old Noah sat on the carpet with his younger sister, playing with the Christmas train they had set up the night before. He set down the passenger car, and his eyes fell on the Advent calendar, studying its unopened boxes. “Momma?” he asked. “What is Advent all about?”
His mom dried her hands on a dishtowel and walked into the living room where he and his sister sat. “Well, Advent is a time when we celebrate the coming of Jesus. We read the Bible, remember God’s promises, celebrate Jesus’ birth, and the anticipation that He will return soon.”
“Do we get to start celebrating all that tonight?” Noah asked.
“Why yes, as a matter of fact, we do. Why don’t you go get the Bible?”
Noah jumped up to retrieve the Bible from its special place on the bookshelf and carried it to where his sister and mom had curled up on the couch. Together, they lit the first purple candle on their Advent wreath and settled down to from the Bible and celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ.
What is Advent?
Advent takes place during the four weeks preceding Christmas and is a celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ. The word advent, and the Latin word adventus from which it was derived, both mean the coming or arrival of an esteemed person.
Celebrated before Christmas, Advent is a beautiful time to remember God’s promises to send a Messiah and how Jesus Christ fulfilled those prophecies. His birth, life, death, and resurrection made it possible for each of us to have a relationship with God and spend eternity with Him.
But Advent isn’t only about celebrating the birth of Jesus. It’s also a time to rejoice and hope in the second coming of Jesus Christ. In the same way that people waited with anticipation and prepared for the birth of the Messiah, Advent reminds us to remember God’s promises and prepare our hearts for His return.
The History of Advent
No one is sure of the date that Christians first celebrated Advent; however, many believe it has been celebrated since the fifth century A.D., around the same time the Roman Empire fell. During that time, churches set aside the four weeks preceding Christmas for fasting, prayer, and baptisms.
It was not until the twentieth century that the tradition of an advent calendar started. As a child, Gerhard Lang’s mother had given him a treat on each night of Advent to help him understand how many days were left until Christmas. As an adult, he created the first printed version of the advent calendar. Now, advent calendars can be found in all shapes and sizes.
Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. This year, Advent will begin on Sunday, November 27, and end on Saturday, December 24.
Why Celebrate Advent?
Advent is a wonderful celebration to share with your entire family, young to old. It’s a time to draw closer to God and closer together.
There are three main reasons to celebrate Advent:
First, Advent helps us focus on the reason for the Christmas season and prepare our hearts to receive the gift God gave when He sent His Son, Jesus, to live among us. Advent is an intentional time of focusing our hearts on Him and the promises He has, and will continue to fulfill.
Second, it reminds us of God’s eternal presence. While we need to nurture our relationship with Jesus at all times of the year, Advent is a time that can help us to reflect on that relationship and how we can seek to draw closer to Him in the coming year.
Third, Advent gives us hope and reminds us that Jesus Christ will return to this earth someday and that we need to renew and prepare our hearts every day for his return. The celebration of Advent is one that we share with Christians worldwide and helps us remember that we are united with one another as sisters and brothers in Christ.
The Four Themes of Advent
Advent takes place during the four weeks before Christmas. Each week has its own theme. The four themes of Advent, which start each week on Sunday, are:
You and your family can celebrate each week’s theme in various ways, including the ideas listed below. What other ways can you think of to celebrate each theme of Advent?
10 Ways to Celebrate Advent
When thinking of ways to celebrate Advent with your family, it’s vital to pick a time when everyone can get together. It may be once a week, every night after dinner, or the first thing you do in the morning. Choose a time that works for everyone’s schedules and make it a priority to spend time in the Word, praying, and sharing God’s love with your family.
1. Advent Calendar
Advent calendars are as unique as each family celebrating Jesus’ coming. Made in every shape, size, and material, Advent calendars help keep track of each day of the observance, and most hold a small ornament or treat for those who are opening it.
2. Advent Wreath and Candles
Advent wreaths and candles tend to go hand in hand, though you can certainly light the candles without the greenery. The wreath symbolizes God’s eternal nature and how we have everlasting life in Him through Jesus Christ. The candles are lit each week to represent each of the themes of Advent. There are typically three purple candles for hope, faith, and peace and a pink candle for joy. Sometimes a fifth candle, white for purity, is lit on Christmas Eve to celebrate the Son of God’s arrival.
3. Collect God’s Promises
Collect Bible verses and promises about the Messiah’s coming, memorize them, and discuss with your family how Jesus’ coming fulfilled (and will fulfill!) every one of them.
4. Attend Advent Services
Many churches hold Advent services each week, and you might want to consider attending them as a family. If you cannot attend in person, consider joining a live stream of Advent services.
Explore our Advent devotionals with your family. Each day during Advent, your family can read excerpts from the Bible and engage in discussion with questions and conversation starters.
Spend time in prayer for our world, nation, and those you know. You can use Christmas cards as reminders to pray for friends and family or create a paper garland of prayer requests to pray over every evening.
God moves in powerful ways when we fast and pray, and the Advent season can be an excellent time to incorporate fasting into your prayer life.
8. Serve Others
Serving others is a fantastic way to share the love of Christ. Spend time with those who may be lonely this Christmas season, donate toys or prepare meals, volunteer, or “adopt a family” in need.
9. Listen to Advent Hymns
Create a playlist of Advent hymns that you and your family can listen to and sing along to!
10. Share Your Faith
Share the story of Jesus Christ’s coming with those around you. Think of at least one person who hasn’t heard the good news about Jesus and share the Christmas story with them this Advent season.
Ready to Celebrate?
Are you ready to celebrate the coming of Jesus? Advent is just around the corner. If you’re starting a little late, that’s okay too! You can adapt your Advent celebration to fit the needs and schedules of your family in any way you choose. Remember to take a look at Focus on the Family’s Advent Resources to help get you and your family started.
Copyright © 2022 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. All scripture quotations are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.