What Is Advent, and When Does It Start?
Every year when the fall arrives, we get closer to the beginning of Advent. In Western Christian traditions, Advent is a season characterized by anticipation and preparation. This season leads up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day.
The period of Advent is a time of dual reflection. For believers, we remember the historical significance of Christ's first coming. We couple that with the hopeful anticipation of his eventual return and second coming. The underlying themes of this season of Advent are hope, peace, and joy, which are wrapped up in the birth of our Savior, Jesus.
The way various Christian denominations remember the season of Advent may differ, but the collective significance is found in the hope of Jesus, who became God in flesh, so that he could redeem us.
What Does "Advent" Mean?
Derived from the Latin word adventus, the term advent signifies a sense of "coming" or "arrival," reflecting a feeling of anticipation. For some Christian denominations, it marks the beginning of the Christian liturgical year. Some may choose to recognize Advent by lighting candles on an Advent wreath.
You might wonder if the celebration of Advent is in the Bible. The short answer is no. While there are many prophecies of the coming Messiah in the Bible, no one knew for sure when it would happen. For this reason, it would not be possible to have a celebration preparing for his arrival when you don’t know when that arrival will be. The recognition and celebration of Advent was a tradition that came later. It is unclear when the first Advent celebration took place, but evidence suggests it originated as early as the fourth century.
Because Advent is not something that is a requirement or command, you can choose to recognize it if you like, but it is not mandatory. I know there are those who will say because it is not in the Bible, you should not take part in it. If that is how you feel that is fine, but if you take part in the celebration of Advent, you are not doing anything sinful. Remember, the focus is on Christ’s first and second coming, and there is never a bad time to think about those things.
When Is Advent?
The period of Advent follows a traditional timeframe each year. Advent lasts for four Sundays. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and concludes on December 24.
In 2023, Advent will begin on Sunday, December 3, and end on Sunday, December 24.
It just so happens that Advent concludes on a Sunday this year, but in years when Christmas Eve is not on a Sunday, Advent will end on whatever day Christmas Eve falls on.
Why Do We Celebrate Advent?
If Advent is not a required celebration, then why do we celebrate it at all? The answer is not really that complicated. All you must do is consider the focus of Advent. The entire purpose of Advent is to remember the first coming of Jesus and look forward to his second coming. We celebrate Christ’s first coming because without it, we would still be lost in our sins.
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).
Christ had to come and take on human flesh so he could be the sacrifice for our sins. If he did not do that, then we are without hope for salvation. It is good to remember that as often as we can. Taking a moment in the year to celebrate that is always worthwhile. Honestly, you don’t have to wait until Advent, you could do that every day if you wanted to.
The other aspect of Advent is the anticipation of Jesus’ second coming. Hopefully, as a believer, this is something you are longing for. Here is what Paul said:
“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
When Christ returns, he will set everything straight and we will see our Savior in all his glory. This will be a day of rejoicing, and this is the eternal hope that we live for now. There is no reason we should not celebrate and acknowledge this. Jesus came once, and he is coming again. In fact, this hope should affect how we live now.
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
What Can We Do to Prepare Our Hearts and Homes for Advent?
There are many ways to prepare your hearts and homes for advent. Here are two:
Focus on how you are living.
As we just saw in John, those who hope for Christ’s return live in a way that reflects the reality that he could return at any moment. That’s one reason we choose to live a holy life. As you think about Advent, realize it is as much about what is going to happen as it is about what has already happened. The hope of our Christian life is not just about what Jesus did, but what he will do and what is to come. I pray this would excite you and challenge you to live a life that shows you are ready for when he comes.
Focus on sharing the message.
The whole point of Jesus’ coming was redemption for humanity. This is the gospel, and it is not meant to be kept to ourselves. Advent should not be a closed celebration reserved only for those who know Jesus. Advent should be a time where we bring this hope of salvation to those who don’t know him. Why not invite someone into your home or even to church? You can use this opportunity to share the hope you have in Christ. Who knows, maybe that is the best way to celebrate the Advent season.
Bible Verses to Read for Each Week of Advent
There are many directions you can go in how you celebrate Advent. Here are some passages of Scripture to focus on during each week of Advent. These are just a few suggestions, so don’t hesitate to find more on your own.
Week One - Focus on Scriptures that foretell his first coming. Isaiah 9:6-7
Week Two - Focus on Scriptures that announce his arrival. Luke 2:1-21
Week Three - Focus on Scriptures that tell of his mission. Isaiah 53
Week Four - Focus on Scriptures that tell of his second coming. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15
Advent is a time to celebrate Jesus. What he means to you, and what he has done for you. Your savior was born, and his birth, death, and resurrection mean you have eternal life through him. While the tendency may be to make these solemn moments, don’t forget to take time to rejoice as well. When Jesus was born, all of heaven rejoiced, because the time for the salvation of men was at hand. Let that spirit of salvation and hope for the world be the one you bring to this Advent season.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/NRuedisueli
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. His most recent book is The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. Clarence is also committed to helping 10,000 people learn how to study the Bible and has just released his first Bible study course called Bible Study Basics. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.