We are all familiar with the secular American traditions surrounding the celebration of Christmas. Many Christian faiths follow a series of seasons that coincide with the life of Jesus through the year. In Churches of Christ, we have officially paid little attention to the Christian calendar, although we recognize events such as the birth of Christ (the Christmas season) and the resurrection (Easter).
The value of the seasons on the church calendar is that they follow the life of Jesus. Thus, Advent is the season of the time when there is an anticipation of the coming of Christ and actually ends on Christmas Eve. “The word ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin word adventus, which means ‘coming’ or ‘visit.’ In the season with this name, we keep in mind both ‘advents’ of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come” (Roberts, see link below). Some celebrate this by having five specifically colored candles in an arrangement and lighting one candle each week as the day of His birth nears.
The history of Advent as a season of observance is not as ancient as the first century Christians. It was the 6th century when the Roman church connected Advent to the coming of Christ. It was not the arrival of the Christ child, however, but the second coming. Some denominations ignore Advent because they associate it with Catholicism.
The first Sunday of Advent this year is December 3rd. You might hear some of your friends talk about Advent. There is no command in Scripture, nor a prohibition, to observe Advent. There is an important story to tell, and a vital truth to proclaim. This seems like a great time to do that. We usually sing carols during December and have lessons from the incarnation texts. We will display wreaths and poinsettia. There will be a Christmas gathering. Sermons during this season focus on the themes of expectation and anticipation.
Whether we call it ‘Advent’ or just celebrate the same news that had angels singing, I hope this will be a special time of year for both our church and our family. John Dobbs
Link: Introduction to Advent by Mark Roberts