Now that Thanksgiving is over, many people are gearing up for Christmas. And many churches are looking to the tradition of Advent to help people focus on the spiritual aspects of the holiday.
The dictionary has several definitions of advent. In its lowercase usage, it is the arrival of something notable.
With a capital A, it refers to two related Christian things: the coming or second coming of Christ and the first season of the Christian church year.
The season of Advent leads up to Christmas and includes the four Sundays before the holiday. For 2018, it starts Dec. 2.
The word advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning come or visit.
Christianity.com says early advent was about new believers preparing for baptism and looking to Epiphany. By the sixth century, Advent was looking to Christ’s return. And in the Middle Ages, Advent became linked with Christmas.
Today, people look forward and back.
At umc.org, the United Methodist Church says, “During Advent, we prepare for, and anticipate, the coming of Christ. We remember the longing of Jews for a Messiah and our own longing for, and need of, forgiveness, salvation and a new beginning. Even as we look back and celebrate the birth of Jesus in a humble stable in Bethlehem, we also look forward anticipating the second coming of Christ as the fulfillment of all that was promised by his first coming.”
Author Rachel Held Evans says on her blog, “Advent is a season of anticipation, of holy waiting. It is a waiting characterized not by idleness or even contented peace, but by prophetic yieldedness and active hope.”
She offers five questions that might help people prepare for Advent.
- When I wake up on Christmas morning, how will I be different? How do I hope the meditations and practices of the season will shape me?
- How can I prepare myself, my home and my family for the arrival of Jesus in a way that nurtures a spirit of anticipation and hope?
- Have I left enough space in the busy holiday season to pay attention, to listen, to wait and to be surprised? What practical steps can I take to both guard those quiet moments but also embrace divine interruptions?
- Consider the effects of light. It can warm and it can guide, but it can also expose and surprise. What does light in the darkness mean for the world? What does it mean for my life in this season?
- What does it mean to listen to the prophets in this season — not just the prophets of old, but the prophets of today? Who is crying out for justice and peace from the margins, and what will I do to heed their calls?
Families, churches and individuals have developed many methods to observe the “active hope” of Advent.
Catholic publisher Loyola Press has a page filled with activities for classes, families or within a church parish. It includes Advent bingo where the caller asks questions related to the season and the players have to cross off the answers to fill their cards. Visit loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/liturgical-year/advent/activities/advent-activities-for-all.
At rca.org/resources/family-ideas-advent, one can find a list of activities that reach out to others during Advent.
Advent devotionals also are common and can be found in many places.
My favorite online Advent resource starts Dec. 2. Visit AdventWord on Facebook or visit adventword.org/sign-up-adventword2018 to signup for the email updates, which include a devotional based on the day’s word. Another use of these words would be to write or create art daily as a meditation on the Advent word.
This resource has a daily word to focus on during Advent. This lists are on Facebook where, organizers say, the word list and meditations are offered in ASL, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.