What is? Advent | Christmas with a Difference
As soon as December starts, it’s time to bring the Advent calendars out, right? The supermarkets have had them in stock for months, and by the beginning of December, it’s unlikely you’d be able to find one, or at least have a choice of the type of chocolate you want. But never fear, even if you don’t like chocolate (what??), Advent calendars don’t stop there. Nowadays there are LEGO, nail polish, soap, or even sausage rolls in the form of a calendar, exciting the nation in the approach to Christmas Day.
But, hold up. Why are Advent calendars a thing? (I’ve just got really distracted researching ‘Tea Advent Calendars’ – why didn’t I know these existed?) But, back to the point. Why do we celebrate the ‘lead-up’ to an event/occasion? Isn’t Christmas the only time of the year that this happens?
Surely, this means it’s important. And it most certainly is.
Regardless of whether you have any belief in Jesus, or acknowledge the Truth of Christmas, I’d imagine you’ve probably got an Advent calendar of some kind.
Wouldn’t you like to know why?
Advent is one of the most important times in the Church, because it represents a time of repentance, reflection and anticipation. In many ways, a good word to sum up Advent is ‘Coming’. Funnily enough, the Latin word for ‘coming’ is adventus.
- We remember Jesus’s coming, on that first Christmas, 2000 years ago.
- We think about Jesus coming now, to live life with us where we’re at.
- We look to and anticipate His second coming, where He will return as King.
The period of Advent traditionally begins four Sundays before Christmas Day. This year, this falls on 3 December. Each week is marked with a candle – often presented in a wreath, leading to the last candle, lit on 25 December. It’s important to remember why, and that actually, in the midst of commercialism, busyness and a festival that is trying to eradicate the Church, ‘WHY’ becomes even more important.
Originally, Advent was not associated with Christmas – instead was a period of fasting for people to prepare for a period of baptism, to mark the anniversary of Epiphany. Eventually it became associated with ‘coming’ – but not the first Christmas, but instead looking to the second coming.
Jesus’s coming 2000 years ago fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament: He was and is the Messiah they had been waiting for. Through him, God took on flesh, and became man, to reach mankind in new ways. In the way that those in the Old Testament were waiting in anticipation for their Saviour, we have our own Advent, for the second coming.
A Time for Reflection
Advent is a crucial time to reflect on our own lives, both the good and the bad. I want to encourage you to take some time to stop and think, and maybe answer these questions in your own time.
- What have I been blessed with this year?
- What do I wish had happened differently? What have I learnt from those events?
- In a time of anticipation, what are you waiting expectantly for?
Advent is relevant – and not something to be dismissed. It is the act of preparing our hearts once again to remember the significance of Christmas. For God became flesh, and we cannot diminish that.
One of the best songs for this time of waiting is ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’. It really epitomises the period of waiting – yet grasps the hope that we can have too. These lyrics in particular may be helpful in explaining the different emotions generally felt through Advent.
‘O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.’
A couple of years ago I came across a version of this hymn by Matt Maher, with an additional refrain. Please take a listen – it’s a great way to refocus our thoughts and praises.
The refrain goes as follows:
‘Rejoice, again, I say, rejoice
For unto us is born the Saviour of the world
Take heart, oh weary soul, take heart
For help is on its way
And Holy is His name’
Take a listen here:
I hope that maybe you’ve thought about Advent a little differently today, and that the next time you open a door, and eat a chocolate, remember that there is a door waiting for you to find out more about Jesus, whenever.