What is "Advent" celebration all about?
I think it's a common misconception that "Advent" is just another word for "Christmas", and that celebrating one is the same as celebrating the other. Certainly as we celebrate this season we need to keep the focus wholly on Christ, and work against the culture of consumerism, or at the very least, against the watering down of the real reason for celebration. And that is a part of both of these words, but "Advent" takes on a further significance with perhaps a longer perspective of what the season means to us today.
In looking for a good definition of what Advent celebration is all about, I stumbled on an article which I think perfectly sums up its significance:
"Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these “last days” (Acts 2:17, Hebrews 1:2), as God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis, they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
While Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, the church now sings the song in commemoration of that first coming and in expectation of the second coming in the future."
Excerpt from Christianity.com. Read more here.
What was to celebrate are available?
Listen: an advent playlist
Christmas music is synonymous with December, but as much as we enjoy curling up by the fire with some Bing Crosby on, we wanted to provide you with a playlist that consistently speaks to deeper truths about Advent and Christmas. There are a pretty broad range of music styles and a mix of classics along side some newly written tunes. It's delivered to you in the form of a Spotify playlist, for easy listening wherever you are.
Do: family activities together
The sharing of special moments is an important part of any Christmas, and sometimes the most beautiful ones just seem to happen. But probably more often we need to intentionally be setting aside time together to enjoy one another and think more deeply about Christmas. So, we've provided 3 resources to help you craft those moments. The first is a free downloadable resource we've put together that is our own version of the Jesse Tree. You may have heard about this before, but it's essentially an every day small craft and Bible passage that tells a story about someone in the line of Jesse, pointing us to our need of a savior.
There are also two books from She Reads Truth and Ann Voskamp we direct you toward that would also be beautiful ways to spend time together each day.
Read: good news of great joy - an advent ebook
You can enjoy this simple but profound ebook with a reading every day from John Piper. There are multiple formats available for whatever ebook format you like and you can even get an audio version, so you could listen to it on your daily commute.
Watch: 2 advent video series
Either of these video series would be the perfect way for a family or community group to do an advent study together. The Bible Project Advent Series is definitely geared toward families, and each of the 4 weeks focuses on hope, peace, joy and love. There is also a series from Rightnow Media called Lifesong that would be great for older families or groups. It does a 4 weeks study of 4 people who were driven to song in the Christmas story.
Give: a family generosity challenge
Christmas is a time of year when many of us are more easily caught up in the culture-wide spirit of generosity. This family challenge is to realize that giving urge and to make it an intentional family practice. Have fun thinking of special things you could do or ways you could all give, and help spread the love and hope of Jesus this December.
Written by Ben Panter
Communications Director at FCC