I had never heard of Advent until two years ago, when I read Ann Voskamp’s book “The Greatest Gift”. I really enjoyed the book, and learned so much about Advent. So thank you, Ann for teaching me about Advent.
This year, I bought her book “Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” so I can do something a little different for Advent this year. This book is written for families to read out loud. It is beautifully illustrated in full color. (You can read my review of the book here, along with a link to purchase it.)
So, back to the question, “What is Advent anyway?”
Well, it is really about preparing for Christmas. Advent gives more meaning to Christmas by reviewing the history behind the birth of Jesus. By participating in Advent, you will find yourself coming closer to God each day leading up to Christmas.
There are many different ways to celebrate Advent. Some people start on Dec 1, and have a different Scripture reading for each day, ending with the Christmas story on Christmas Day. Some people do 40 days of fasting, prayer, and reflection. Some churches start Advent on the 4th Sunday before Christmas, which would roughly be the Sunday closest to December 1. Then they have a different Scripture reading on each of those 4 Sundays. Some people use a different theme for the readings each Sunday. The ones I have seen are “Faith, Hope, Joy, and Love”.
Some people light a candle each day of Advent. Others light a candle each of the 4 Sundays and light another candle on Christmas Day. Some put the candles in a wreath that lays flat on a table. Some use a metal stand. However we choose to celebrate Advent, it is meant to prepare us for the coming of the Lord.
Advent is really about 2 comings. First it is about the birth of Jesus, and the long wait for the Messiah to come to save the world. Then it is also about the 2nd coming, when Jesus Christ will return and bring Heaven to Earth.
Advent is not taught in the Bible. It is not even a Jewish custom. It is a way that Christians and Catholics have found to help them prepare spiritually for Christmas, despite all the busyness of the season, baking and buying presents and having Christmas parties. Since the busyness of the Christmas season can give us no time to remember Jesus, the reason for the Season, Advent helps put the meaning back in Christmas. So you can celebrate Advent whatever way works for you, as long as it points you to Jesus.