The words Christmas and Advent seem to go hand in hand. But what does Advent mean in Christianity? For many Christians, the idea of Advent is foggy and undefined. So let’s figure out what is Advent and why it is celebrated.
What is Advent and Why Do We Celebrate It?
In the quest to determine what is advent it may help to get some definitions out of the way.
Advent, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is the arrival of a notable person or thing.
When we speak about Advent in Christianity, we are referring to the arrival of Christ. But which coming? Are we talking about His birth or His Second Coming?
Advent looks back towards the birth of our Savior and looks forward to His return. We celebrate Advent because we remember the birth of our Savior and the gift of salvation.
We also celebrate because we know the day is coming when Christ will return and sin will be destroyed forever.
Why is advent important?
In order to figure out why Advent is so important, we have to go back a few thousand years. The promise of the Messiah was first given to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15).
Then, when God called Abraham to leave his country and his people, God promised to bless the whole world through Abraham’s lineage (Genesis 12:1-3).
Fast-forward a bit and the nation of Israel was born. The promise of the Messiah was repeated several times throughout their history. God had called them to be His people and He set them as a standard above the rest but still, the Messiah didn’t come.
When we read the history of Israel in the Old Testament, it sometimes seems like a “what not to do”.
- They sinned against God
- They were punished
- They repent and turn to God but they never remain faithful.
- And the cycle repeats
Yet through it all is the promise of Advent: one day the Messiah will come. Though we have them separate in most of our Bibles, the books of the prophets are really interwoven throughout the history of Israel. A look at a chronological reading plan would give you an idea of how it may have played out at the time.
God always spoke to His people. He kept sending His prophets to tell them what they were doing wrong, how they could change, and the consequences if they did not repent. And though at times the messages were stern, there was always a thread of hope, a look towards Advent.
Until one day God stopped talking.
After the prophecies of Malachi, there are about four hundred years of silence until John the Baptist began his ministry.
Can you imagine how it must have felt for God’s chosen people to not hear from Him for such a long period of time?
They must have thought He had abandoned them, that they had finally gone too far. They must have felt like the most wretched people on earth. But then…
The celebration of Advent is important. It reminds us that before the Messiah comes, there’s a period of waiting…of silence and mourning. A period to consider the state of our lives and heart. Are they in a position of subjection before God?
What happens during Advent?
The season of Advent is typically celebrated for four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day. Now you may be wondering, what do the weeks of Advent represent?
Think about it for a second: four years of silence from God, four weeks of Advent.
Christmas is a season of celebration and festivities because we’re remembering the birth of Jesus. But Advent is a season of preparation. It should be a time of fasting and prayer as we contemplate our need for a Savior.
Free Printable Advent Reading Plans
One of the best ways to zero in on the true meaning of Advent is to use an Advent reading plan during the season. These readings are great at reminding you what is Advent and why it should be celebrated.
I have curated a collection of Advent reading plans from various sources across the internet. Here are five great Advent reading plans that you and your family can use this year as part of your Advent celebration.
Hope Rekindled by Living by Design
Advent Bible Reading Plan from My Printable Faith
The Promised Messiah by Raising Everyday Disciples
We Need a Savior from Hebrews 12 Endurance
Advent Calendar for Kids Reading Plan by Not Consumed
I hope you have a deeper understanding of what advent is and will be spending some time each year to learn more about the true meaning of Advent and to share it with your family and friends.
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