Advent, the word advent means the arrival of something or someone. Anticipation, preparation, and observance of Advent vary by denomination. But no matter the denomination, we all anticipate Christ’s birth, we prepare to celebrate, and we observe the promise of God fulfilled.
Anticipation, Preparation, and Observance of Advent
In the Christian tradition, Advent is a season of preparing one’s heart in the weeks leading up to Christmas, when Christ’s arrival is celebrated. Think about the preparation you go through to receive something or someone new into your life, your heart, or your home. Preparation builds anticipation and is a great tool for spiritual formation. Arrivals can be life-changing in a practical sense, such as the advent of smartwatches and home automation. Arrivals can also be life-changing in cultural, historical, geo-political, and spiritual ways. That is exactly what we got with Jesus’ arrival 2000+ years ago. Luke 2: 1-14 says
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising Go
d and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (ESV)
Here are a few ways Jesus’ arrival affects all of humanity. A humble carpenter, Jesus is the most influential person in all history. His teachings, found in the Bible, constitute the most widely read book of all time. The early printing and distribution of the Bible dramatically impacted global literacy; Jesus’ teachings undergird the Judeo-Christian ethic which is rooted in love and justice; Jesus is the object of Christianity, the largest religion in the world; the list goes on.
But how does Jesus’ arrival affect us personally and spiritually, and why should it?
Jesus came with a message of hope, peace, redemption, and restoration. He promises to rescue all who trust in him from the bad news of brokenness, and the power of death. This is not only good news (two words that don’t usually go together), it’s the best. In trusting Christ, I am made new, I walk in
newness of life by the power of God’s Spirit, and I have the promise of eternal life.
Abundant life is something to celebrate!
Yet we get drowsy, so we practice Advent to re-awaken ourselves to God’s Good News. In the four weeks before Christmas, Advent invites us to prepare to enter th
e story of Jesus with anticipation. Many people engage in spiritual practices such as prayer, fasting, and repentance to be with God and prepare to welcome Christ in fresh and faith-filled ways.
What might this look like? Some use Advent calendars to count down the days. You can read more about advent in the Planting Roots Advent series here. Churches traditionally use candles on flat wreaths to mark the four Sundays of Advent. The candles represent Hope, Faith, Joy, and Love. Often there is a candle for Christ in the center. Each candle points to Bible heroes who set an example for us in preparing for God’s next move, whatever that may be.
First Sunday of Advent
- God’s People Prepare
- Contemplate the faith of God’s people in Matthew 1 and Hebrews 11.
- List clues about ways God’s people prepared for Christ’s advent or arrival.
- Ask God if there is anything he would have you fast from or repent of in preparation for Christmas.
Second Sunday of Advent
- God’s Prophets Prepare
- Read Luke 2 and focus on the faith of Zechariah.
- Think about what his song in Luke 2:67-80 suggests about his preparation for the coming Christ. What Good News does he recount in these verses?
- Be on the lookout for Christmas carols that help emphasize the Good News. Check out April Dingle singing The First Noel for some inspiration!
Third Sunday of Advent
- John the Baptist Prepares
- Read Luke 1-3 and put together in your mind the larger narrative.
- List all you learn about John the Baptist. How does John prepare not only himself but also others, for Christ’s coming and Christ’s eternal kingdom?
- Invite someone to share a meal with you this week. Ask them how they celebrate Christmas and share anything you are learning about celebration and anticipation.
Fourth Sunday of Advent
- Mary Prepares
- This week, read Luke 1-3 again, this time listing all you learn about Jesus’ mother Mary.
- What does Mary’s song in Luke 2:46-56 reveal about Mary’s spiritual readiness?
- Memorize and meditate on Mary’s song this week. Here’s an idea…try singing it!
However you celebrate, invite your community or family to join in these preparations as a way to bring the party!