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What is Advent?

As Christmas approaches every year, we often hear the word “advent” being talked about from various sources such as church services, devotionals, or anything else intended to set the tone for our Christmas season. The word "advent" actually means “arrival” or “an appearing or coming into place.” When Christians use this word around Christmas time, it refers to the coming or arrival of Jesus’ birth on earth (John 1:14). This is also sometimes called Christ’s “first advent” because there will be a "second advent" when Jesus returns to earth again (Matthew 24:30).

The Advent season occurs during the four weeks leading up to Christmas, starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, or the nearest Sunday to November 30, and lasts until Christmas Eve. During Advent, we’re celebrating the arrival of Christ’s birth, but we’re also looking forward in anticipation to His “second advent,” or when He returns to earth in His second coming (Revelation 1:7, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Just like Israel longed for their Messiah to come, we as Christians now long for Him to come again.

The season of Advent is also a time to prepare our hearts for Christmas and Jesus’ eventual return as the triumphant Savior. Different churches have different ways of commemorating this season, including modern traditions of decorating using wreaths, branches, and trees. The green of these things symbolizes the eternal life Jesus brings.

There are then candles sometimes placed around an Advent wreath, which are lit (one at a time) every Sunday leading up to Christmas Eve. The first Sunday, a white candle is the candle of “hope” or “expectation.” The remainder of the candles can differ based on the individual church, but on Christmas Eve (or Christmas Day), a candle in the center of a wreath is lit. This is the “Christ candle,” a reminder that Jesus, the light of the world, has come.

There are various other traditions that can be found to celebrate Advent, like the popular use of Advent calendars. These calendars may have a box or window that is opened each day until Christmas, often revealing a Bible verse, poem, or some kind of candy or present. These can be used to learn about the birth of Jesus and create anticipation for the day we celebrate it, though there are some secular Advent calendars as well.

As Christians, we’re not commanded to celebrate Advent, but it's still beneficial to take time during the Christmas season to prepare our hearts for our coming King—the one who came to Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, and the King who is coming in the future.

Celebrating Advent won’t make God love us more or make us better Christians, but it can help us set our hearts in the right place, and that’s the most valuable thing Christians can do during the Advent season.

ALSO SEE: What is Christmas all about?

TL;DR

"Advent" means "arrival," and at Christmas, Advent is a commemoration of Jesus’ first coming to earth (John 1:14). Advent takes place during the four weeks leading up to Christmas. As Christians, we’re not commanded to celebrate Advent, but it's still beneficial to take time during the Christmas season to prepare our hearts for our coming King. Celebrating Advent can help us set our hearts in the right place, and that’s the most valuable thing Christians can do during the Advent season.

By: Stephanie T.

Stephanie is a 21-year old with a passion to see believers grow and become passionate in their relationship with the Lord. She is a lover of sweat tea, sunshine, and the freedom that comes from Christ. In her free time, she can be found singing, playing guitar, writing or jamming out to Hawk Nelson, Phil Wickham, and worship music. Her dreams are to become a worship leader and a published author, while living a life full of fun and joy that comes from the Lord.

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