The King is coming. Jesus Christ has come and will come again. This is the hope of the Church whom He purchased with His blood. It is the eager expectation and desire of His people. His coming is our joy, for He is our treasure, our greatest good.
Advent, formed from a Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival,” is about the coming of Christ. It’s the traditional celebration of the first advent of Jesus and the anxious awaiting of His second. The season is a time for remembering and rejoicing, watching and waiting, and a time to reflect upon the promises of God and to anticipate the fulfillment of those promises with patience, prayer and preparedness.
History and Traditions
The Advent season officially commences on the fourth Sunday (Advent Sunday) before Christmas and continues until Christmas Eve or Day. Various theological traditions celebrate the season through an array of customs. Perhaps the most popular tradition associated with the season is the use of an Advent calendar to mark the month of December. Modern Advent calendars typically include 24 “windows” that are opened (one per day) to reveal a poem, portion of Scripture, story, picture or small gift. As more windows are opened, expectancy increases in awaiting the final day, which represents the first advent of Christ.
Another popular tradition involves the use of an Advent candle or candles. This symbol is borrowed from the emphasis throughout Scripture of Jesus Christ being the Light of the World (Matt. 4:16; John 1:4-9, 8:12). Those using one candle burn a little each day to mark the progression of the season. Each day a bit more of the candle is burned to represent the anticipation of Christmas. Others use a wreath with five candles in the middle. Each week a new candle is lit in anticipation of the final lighting on Christmas Eve or Day.
You also often see an emphasis on particular colors in the celebration of Advent. Whereas modern Christmas celebrations focus on red and green, the historical colors of Advent are purple (symbolizing royalty) and blue (symbolizing hope). Given the association of purple with Easter and Lent, modern Advent celebrations often emphasize blue.
Our Advent guide serves as an introduction to the Advent season to awaken the angst of waiting, longing and yearning for Christ. The hope is to feel the ancient angst of Israel and allow that to inform our own anticipation. The guide consists of five weeks of material with each week containing a personal devotional, group devotional and family devotional.
The guide will take us on a journey from the longing of the Old Testament saints for the Messiah, to Christ’s first advent, to the longing that we now experience for His return. We will see hints and shadows of God’s promises of a Messiah, His fulfillment of those promises in His blessed Son and the promise of a future advent when Christ will return and all will be made new.
Group and Family Devotionals
A number of things compete for our time, attention, affections and resources during the holiday season. In the blink of an eye, the beauty, spirit and intent of Christmas can be consumed by the clamoring of commercialism and activities. A time intended to remember and celebrate the birth of the promised Messiah and look ahead to His promised return can quickly become centered on things that are superficial and temporal. As you think about and plan for the coming weeks, prayerfully consider what you want this season of Advent to be marked by for your group or family.
The guide contains a number of appendices to supplement the topics and themes of the Advent season. We pray that they will be useful as you consider Christ and wait in eager anticipation for the day He returns.