Advent 101: What it is, Who it’s for, & How to Celebrate it

AdventThe word wasn’t even in the periphery of my vocabulary growing up. Even after I began following Jesus, it seemed like a code word – something people “in the know” tossed around as though they all were in on the secret: “Advent”.

Many Christians don’t talk about it at all. The day after Thanksgiving they kick into Christmas-mode & ride the Christmas train up through New Years Eve. Often those who do speak of Advent talk about it as an assumption. If you get up the nerve to ask about it, you tend to get the “you-seriously-don’t-know?” look.

The English word “Advent” means “The arrival a notable person, event, or moment in time”, but the church’s celebration of Advent emphasizes “waiting for” that arrival. For the uninitiated, Advent is like an extended Christmas Eve, when the church is invited to entertain the “Not Yet” of the Kingdom of God. It’s a season to admit that life isn’t perfect – in some cases it really is quite broken – & wait in patient expectancy for God to step in & do His work.

If you tire of the hyper-materialism, & the sometimes excessive false-cheeriness of the secular Christmas season that seems entirely disconnected from Jesus’ birth, Advent is what you’ve been looking for. If you have experienced significant loss during the winter holidays, & just don’t connect with the season, maybe celebrating Advent could be a breath of fresh air for you this year. Advent is an invitation to recognize the broken places, & to put those into God’s hands, trusting Him to do what only He can: enter into that brokenness like He did in the birth of Jesus.

Advent is an invitation to recognize the broken places, & to put those into God’s hands

I’ve come across a few helpful resources to celebrate Advent personally or as a family.

  • Advent Devotionals: my personal favorite is this free PDF download by John Piper.
  • Jesse Tree: I would like to try this next year with the whole family. Probably one of the best current resources on this is Anne Voskamp’s book, “the Greatest Gift”. It is devotional-like but outlines the details of a “Jesse Tree”
  • Advent-themed Worship Music: Note – this is NOT NECESSARILY CHRISTMAS MUSIC! Advent-themed songs are worship songs about “waiting” – not Christmas. I’ve created an Advent Spotify Playlist this year that I have put into rotation with my recent NEXT: Christmas Playlist to set the tone leading up to Christmas Eve.
  • Make time to “BE”. I’ve heard it said, but it bears repeating: we are not “human doings”, but “human beings”. Find time to contemplate the season – to talk with God about what you’re waiting for.
  • Some other great ideas of celebrating Advent as a family can be found HERE.

And for the worship leader, don’t feel the temptation to make every song a re-worked Christmas carol: instead schedule services that mix in a sense of anticipation – slow things down – leave songs or final chord progressions unresolved – allow people to feel the tension a bit. That way Christmas serves as an even stronger reminder that the Kingdom has come and IS COMING!

Many blessings on you & yours this season of Advent.

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