Advent is not Christmas, and the 12 Days of Christmas are not December 13th to the 25th. Here are the basics you need to know to understand and participate in Advent:
1. The idea of a season of Advent probably started in the late 4th century, as we have several sermons from that period which refer to the subject. This timeline makes sense when you realize that it was also in the mid-4th century that the date for the celebration of the birth of Jesus was settled on December 25th.
2. For many denominations, Advent marks the beginning of what is known as the Liturgical year, the cycle of seasons which many Christians follow.
3. Advent “is a version of the Latin word meaning ‘coming’. Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ.”
4. Many traditions have developed over time to help with the celebration of Advent, such as the Advent calendar and the Advent wreath which help to count out the days and weeks of Advent and represent the ideas present in Advent such as hope, love, joy, and peace.
5. The “coming’ of Advent can be seen from three perspectives: Jews who were waiting for their Messiah to come, the anticipation of the weeks leading up to our celebration of the birth of Christ, the waiting for a second coming of Christ, and the constant expectation of the coming of the Kingdom of God which believers are to be building in the present time everyday, right here, where we already are.
6. So what’s the point?
As we move into the second Sunday of Advent tomorrow, we are anxiously awaiting Christmas Eve night when we will have a beautiful service at church, be singing Silent Night by candlelight, and be remembering the birth of a baby who would live the most influential life ever lived. We will also be remembering that man’s promise that he would return again. We should be ready, because there won’t be any warning, and he could return at any time.
So the big question is why is this important?
Daily preparation. Advent is a time of preparation, and a reminder that, just like a soldier who doesn’t know when a barracks inspection will come and therefore should be ready for it at all times, we must repent and seek God daily to be prepared for Christ’s return.
Daily preparation means that you are a better, more focused, and grounded human being who is constantly looking for ways to be a better person and do good works. If your focus is on daily preparation, you will be making the world around you a better place, a little at a time, and that is really the work that believers are called to do. It isn’t just about repenting so you are sure to be clean and ready on the day Jesus returns; it is about being the caring center in your part of the world every day so that the kingdom is being built right here and right now.
Daily I must repent because daily I sin. Every day we should confess those sins and be washed in God’s grace through Christ’s sacrifice. We should not only be readying ourselves for Christ’s coming, but building a better kingdom on God’s earth in the meantime.
It is the season of advent; we prepare and we wait. And the 12 days of Christmas will start on Christmas day and run 12 days until the Epiphany. (more on that later!)
“Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”