Why Celebrate Advent?

by Brian Colmery
For most of my life, the word “advent” was always followed by the word “calendar.” Most calendars don’t have much to offer besides the occasional fun picture and a bunch of numbers in boxes. But in December things change. All of a sudden calendars had chocolate in them. Given, it’s that chocolate that has faint notes of plastic, but chocolate nonetheless.

It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I realized the word “advent” actually means “arrival.” And that it signified more than the arrival of chocolate calendars. For Christians throughout history, Advent was the season when we reflect on the arrival of Jesus as the hope of the world.

If you were raised in an evangelical church, you might have never celebrated Advent. And besides buying a chocolate calendar, you might wonder how in the world to do it. Aren’t we supposed to remember Jesus every day?

Or you might have been a part of a church that did celebrate Advent, and you don’t have fond memories. You might think of serious people in robes lighting candles in a way that made you feel like God was distant and, frankly, kind of boring.

I don’t think you should let those experiences keep you from celebrating Advent — and with more than a calendar. Here’s why:

First, we need special times of reflection in our lives. Think about it this way: if you are always celebrating, you are never celebrating. To say that we are supposed to remember Jesus every day is true, but if there are no unique ways that we do it, we quickly lose focus and our celebration fades to the background of our lives. Advent provides a rhythm, along with the rest of the church calendar (Lent, Easter, etc.) that helps us keep our celebration in the forefront of our minds as we emphasize different ways of remembering the beauty of Jesus.

Second, Advent keeps us from taking Jesus for granted. It has been over two thousand years since the first advent of Jesus, and it is easy to forget that there was a time before He came. Thousands of years of human history involved looking forward to a promised messiah who would make things right in the world. Living on the other side of the incarnation, it can be easy for us to forget how desperate our situation was without a Savior. Advent reminds us of our situation before a holy God who loved us so much that He did send a Savior, which gives us a whole new perspective with which to celebrate.

Third, Advent makes Christmas what it was meant to be. Without Advent, the holiday season quickly turns into “the time after Thanksgiving where there are pumpkin spice lattes and Christmas songs playing while we shop.” Then it’s Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and we’re on to the new year. Advent transforms the time before Christmas into reflection and anticipation — which transforms Christmas Day into the celebration of Jesus you’ve been thinking about for weeks.

So how do you celebrate Advent? It’s perfectly okay to have a chocolate calendar, but it’s also a good idea to take intentional time to reflect, on your own and/or with your family. On Sunday mornings, we will be reflecting with special readings and by lighting candles in an advent wreath. And throughout the week, we’re providing an Advent Devotional you can use. We hope you'll join us in truly celebrating this season of anticipating Jesus.