Advent is a season of waiting for a “coming.” Since the fifth century A.D. Advent has been a season of preparation for Christmas, Advent is the period where Christians await the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. This season is a season of hope; it is a season to spread cheer; it is a season of buying presents, decorating houses, planning travel, and parties. But most of all, it is (and should be) a season to focus on the birth of the Savior.
Many people see Advent as a season filled with liturgy and tradition. Indeed the season holds a great deal of tradition, but the main purpose of the season is to anticipate the birth of the savior. The season holds the greatest value when we understand its true purpose.
Many books have been produced to encourage us to celebrate the Advent season. Especially popular right now are the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Advent. Another series which will bring the meaning of Christmas to children and teenagers are found in the writings of Arnold Ytreeide. A new book which reaches into the heart of Christmas is entitled Advent Journeys. This book gets to the heart of Christmas by following Zechariah the priest, Joseph with Mary, the Shepherds and the Magi on their journeys to find the Christ Child in Bethlehem.
Advent is a season of many decorations. All of the decorations can be tied to the expectation, or waiting for the coming of Christ. Christmas lights symbolize Jesus, the light of the world. Advent candles symbolize the four weeks until His birth. Evergreen branches and trees symbolize our eternal God who sent His Son into the world to give eternal life. Poinsettias symbolize the blood (red) and royalty (golden crown) of Jesus.
There is much fun and festivity during this season. And while some would connect this to pagan festivals of the rising sun, those meanings disappeared long ago, and all things are connected to Christ. Christmas cards can be tied to the announcement of Angels. Christmas gifts can be connected to the gifts of the Magi. Christmas parades can be connect to the parade of people who came to see the newborn KIng. Even Santa Claus is connected, for the tradition is based on an actual Christian priest named Nicholas.
A most important purpose of Advent is to teach children the meaning of Christmas. But sometimes we forget this fact. A new resource has just been placed on the internet which gives ideas for families who desire to celebrate Christ’s birth rather than the giving of gifts. This resource provides activities for every day of Advent. It is based on the author’s opinion that the best gift of the season is the gift of time.
The season called Advent has endured for many generations. St. Gregory of Tours, Saint Maximus of Turin, Saint Ivo of Chartres, St. Bernard, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine all called attention to the importance of Advent. the teachings of these men, and many generations of pastors and teachers since the Middle Ages has emphasized the most important thing a Christian can do during the month of December is to prepare the heart in order to experience full joy when the morning of Christmas arrives.