“Christmas is just not my thing.”
Several others agreed. My friends were ranking their favorite holidays and Christmas was one of the lower ones on their lists. I was surprised, but not shocked. As we get older, Christmas loses a bit of its magic and charm. We start to look at gift giving as an obligation and our calendars become so full of parties and concerts and entertaining that we wonder if we’ll have a moment to breathe. I can see why other, less-pressure holidays might rank higher on the list.
As we were having this conversation, though, I realized my love of Christmas had actually grown as I got older. I love pretty much all holidays, but Christmas has become extra special for me in the last few years. And I believe it is because I began to participate in Advent.
Growing up, my church lit the candles each week and my family had a countdown calendar. We talked about Jesus coming to earth and made sure He was the focus of our traditions, but Advent was not a word we used or a big part of our celebrations.
A few years ago, I began to learn more about Advent. For those of you, like me, who did not grow up with the term, Advent is a season on the church calendar leading up to Christmas. Traditionally, it begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas and goes until Christmas day. The rituals and traditions associated with Advent are both ancient and fluid. Churches have observed Advent for centuries, but each congregation and individual may participate in different ways. Many light candles each Sunday, telling a different part of the Christmas story leading up to Christ’s birth.
In the last few years, Advent has become important for me in two ways. First, Advent has challenged me to focus on Jesus in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Amidst the hustle and bustle and jingle bells, taking time to read an Advent devotion or follow Advent Scripture readings invites me to remember the hope, peace, love, and joy Jesus offers. I am challenged to keep the other holiday festivities centered on who Jesus is and what His coming means for me.
Second, Advent builds anticipation. When I think and read about the prophets predicting Jesus’ birth, I am thankful for the hope of Jesus. When I’m reminded of the Israelites enslaved and then in exile, I am grateful for the God who is with us—Immanuel. I anticipate celebrating Jesus’ first coming, but Advent also points me to His second. We still long for hope, for peace, for God With Us. In His second coming, we will have perfect hope, peace, and we will be with God for eternity.
Observing Advent has taught me to focus on what Jesus’ coming means for me. Advent has helped me anticipate the coming of Christ—both the celebration of His first coming to earth as one of us and His eventual return victorious.
To observe Advent, it’s often helpful to have a plan. Our friends at She Reads Truth have a wonderful Advent plan. Beginning Sunday, November 29 (the first day of Advent), their daily Advent content will be live at SheReadsTruth.com, on their app, and in their daily emails (check out SheReadsTruth.com to sign up for those). We would love for you to join in their Advent readings with us as you anticipate this Christmas.