Advent is a time to reflect upon the birth of Jesus more than 2,000 years ago and to prepare for his return. It commemorates the eagerly anticipated arrival of a Messiah promised by God to Abraham, Moses and prophets of Israel for millennia. But it is also a time for Christians on the other side of Jesus’s first visit to earth–his virgin birth, his death on the cross, his bodily resurrection and his ascension into heaven–to be reminded of his promised return and our hope of spending eternity in the presence of God.
How one prepares for the annual celebration of Christ’s birth–Christmas–is personal. He or she may participate in planned activities like lighting Advent candles or participating in church-centered programs or following devotional guides designed to draw readers into a time of contemplation. This biblical principle serves as a guide for many Christians:
“One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord”Romans 14:5–6.
Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas, ending on Christmas Eve. It is generally considered the start of the annual Church calendar. There are some writings that suggest that setting aside a set number of days before Christmas for prayer and contemplation began several centuries after Christ’s resurrection. It became more formalized around 1500 and became a fixture in many Protestant churches over the past 400 years.
Christians are not required to observe Advent, but for many, Advent activities help them focus on the true meaning of Christmas and bring balance to the busyness of the season. If Advent is not part of your Christmas celebration, we encourage you to consider obtaining an Advent Devotional and spending a few minutes each day looking forward to the return of Jesus even as you look back at his miraculous birth.