What is Advent?
The Christmas season evokes different emotions in different people. Some people are filled with a sense of joy, while others experience sadness. Most likely, you have a range of emotions. You may find Christmas to be a joyful reminder of Jesus’ birth, but in your gladness, you also feel the sorrow of missing a loved one or mourning a broken relationship. Sometimes “Merry Christmas” just doesn’t seem appropriate.
We hope this guide can aid in making your Christmas genuinely merry--a merriment that comes from our steadfast hope in Jesus’ return to renew all things. He will right the wrongs done by us and injustices done to us.
Let’s pray we can use this Advent season to make Christmas merry in the most real sense.
History of Advent
The term Advent means “coming.” It has Latin roots and is most often used to describe the incarnation of Christ or the second coming of Christ. As Christians, we celebrate the arrival of Jesus and look forward to His return. The forward-looking aspect is a comforting reminder to press on living for Jesus in this life. Christians of earlier generations would use the phrase “advent of our Lord” when referring to Jesus’ birth and “His second advent” when referring to Jesus’ return to judge the nations.
The liturgy of the traditional church calendar celebrates the season of Advent in the lead up to Christmas. In the western church, the four Sundays before Christmas constitute the season of Advent. The eastern church begins celebrating in mid-November. Many believe this unique celebration of the Advent season started as early as the fourth century.
As evangelicals, we see no mandate in Scripture to practice certain festivals. However, what we do see is God placing special events and seasons in the lives of His people to remember the blessings He has given His children and hope for the promises yet to come. This Advent season, our desire for Soteria is that we use this opportunity to celebrate the incarnation and rest in the assurance of Jesus' return.
About this guide
This guide is a complement to our church family’s celebration of Advent for your family to follow. In the history of Christianity, the celebration includes both the first and second Advents of Christ--the incarnation and the second coming respectively. This guide has opportunities to both reflect on the past and hope in the future.
Each week follows a similar layout: a scripture, a reading, the lighting of the Advent wreath, a carol, a children’s activity, a question for reflection and a prayer. We hope and pray the wonder of the Christ child and the return of King Jesus will be in your heart this season. We hope this guide can play a small role in your Advent celebration. While designed as a whole, feel free to use as much or as little of this booklet as you like.
Each reading was written by one of our staff members. We hope you find them encouraging and relevant.
The Advent wreath
The Advent wreath looks like a regular Christmas wreath, but instead of hanging on your front door, it lays flat on a table. Four candles are placed within the wreath to represent the four weeks leading up to Christmas. A candle, called the Christ candle, is placed in the center of the wreath.
In early Christianity, the light of a candle or lamp symbolized the light of Christ shining into the darkness of the world. The concept of Christ as the light of the world is also found in Scripture. “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16)
The time we set aside for celebrating is only meaningful because of the fuller redemptive story. The prayers in this guide are designed to inform us about the person of Christ. They are adaptations from The Valley of Vision, a collection of prayers from the Puritans. These prayers are best used as a springboard for your family prayers.