Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Dec. 2, 2002. At the time of publication, Howard was senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Kentucky.
What is Advent? When does Advent begin? How is Advent to be observed?
Advent is a Latin word meaning “to come” or “the coming.” According to the Christian calendar, the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day comprise the season called Advent.
For the church, this is the season to anticipate and welcome the coming of the Christ child.
Different churches observe Advent in different ways.
Some churches display an Advent wreath in the sanctuary and light a candle each Sunday until Christmas Day.
Others plan a special service for the “Hanging of the Green” or the decorating of a chrismon tree.
Still other churches have colorful banners that reflect the message and meaning of the season.
Your Advent journey goes beyond what happens at your church services. Advent is a season for preparing your heart, mind and soul for the coming of Christ.
Such preparation involves participation in worship, designating time for quiet meditation and reading daily Advent devotionals. Advent devotional guides are available at some area churches and at most Christian bookstores.
Many ways exist to enrich your family’s Advent celebration. Decorating your home, rereading the gospel Christmas narratives, enjoying a family singalong and planning your own charitable giving all help prepare families to celebrate the birth of Christ.
Advent is a season of varied emotions and diverse activities, and your Advent journey may involve many disciplines.
Advent is a season to anticipate the coming of Christ. It is a time to relive each phase of the Christmas narrative.
The Bible includes the messianic promises of the Old Testament and the angelic birth announcements in the New Testament.
The birth of Jesus is the culmination of biblical prophecy and spiritual promise. Advent is a season for retracing the whole story of the gospel with an expectant heart.
Advent is a season to reflect on the will of God. After Mary had given birth to Jesus, the Bible says, “she pondered these things in her heart.”
Advent is a time to draw aside from the busyness of our daily routine and ponder the meaning of some significant spiritual events.
Advent is a season to worship. There is a uniquely joyful energy present in worship during Advent. Advent is a wonderful opportunity to join with others to await and worship “the newborn King.”
Advent is a season to celebrate the gifts of God. Christmas parades, Christmas cantatas, festive family dinners, generous giving and gracious receiving are all examples of traditional ways to celebrate the season.
You will be wise to remember that Advent is a season, not an event. Advent is a progressive journey, not a quick trip.
If you will travel that journey intentionally and expectantly, you may discover again the wonder of the child in the manger.
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches.