Advent (noun) – The arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.
There have been years in my life where I wake up on December 26th and feel like I missed Christmas; like there was all kinds of build up to it and then suddenly it was gone; like there was a blur of seasonal lights, food, family time, decorations, and music – and before I knew it, it was January. I believe observing the season of advent can help eliminate the possibility of feeling this way on December 26th. Here are 4 simple reasons that I believe observing advent can help make every Christmas an incredibly rich and spiritually meaningful time for believers.
1. Advent helps combat loneliness, depression, materialism, and distractions.
Christmas should be one of the most joyful parts of a Christian’s life, but it isn’t always easy. For some, Christmas is clouded by sadness, darkness, burdens, and distractions. Reflecting on advent helps us combat the clouds of darkness and distractions that our culture and our bad experiences have created. Advent combats loneliness by reminding us that God became flesh so that he could be with us and us with him (John 1:14). Advent combats depression by reminding us that God humbled himself by coming to die for us because we have such immense value, and because of that, we can have hope (Ephesians 2:4-7). Advent combats consumerism and materialism by drawing us back to focus on what really matters, Christ and his love for his people (Hebrews 13:5). Advent combats busyness by calling us to rest and reflect on Christ’s coming and what it means for our lives. It calls us to pause, to slow down, and to remember what he has done and look forward to what he will do. There is no replacement for sitting at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38-42).
2. Advent deepens the significance of Christmas Day.
Eagerly awaiting the arrival of King Jesus helps give us a greater appreciation and love for Him when he actually arrives. Eager anticipation deepens the significance of what has been anticipated. In other words, longing for and waiting for something, and reflecting on the significance of that notable person, thing, or event, will make its arrival or manifestation infinitely more meaningful. As Christians, if we don’t spend an appropriate amount of time and energy waiting with excitement for the coming of Christ and reflecting on its significance for our lives, then Christmas will be just another day. If we are to truly grasp the significance of Jesus’ arrival among us, there must be a period of eager anticipation.
3. Advent reminds us that our entire lives are about waiting for Jesus to come.
This eager anticipation is something that the prophets and the Old Testament faithful understood all too well. For hundreds of years, Israel longed for the coming of the Messiah, their deliverer. Just like the prophets longed for Christ’s first arrival, we the church now long for his second arrival. The church now is like Israel was – in exile, under oppression, longing for the return of our King, who will bring deliverance. Christmas is about reflecting on the past coming of Christ and anticipating the future coming of Christ. It reminds us that our entire lives are spent reflecting on the first coming of Jesus and preparing for the second. Our King will come again and our entire lives should be spent eagerly waiting for the day when we step into eternity with him.
4. Advent brings us back to the gospel.
Advent reminds us that there was only one way and there is only one way. It involved sacrifice, pain, suffering, and eventually death. Christmas, like all else in the Christian life, is a powerful reminder that there is only one way to salvation, hope, and eternal life – Jesus Christ, the Messiah – who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Most people spend their whole lives looking for meaning and purpose in places that never provide those things. And most people, including many Christians, spend the whole Christmas season worshipping Christmas. But Christmas and advent are a means to an end. They are both completely and entirely about Christ and what he has done for his people. Advent reminds us of the truth of the gospel and helps us worship God more fully as we reflect on what the gospel means for us.
If you have never observed advent before, I would encourage you to do so. Spend every day and every week leading up to Christmas reflecting on Jesus’ birth and what it means for believers. Don’t allow darkness or distractions to dominate your heart this Christmas. Choose the good portion, like Mary did in Luke 10, and put all the serving, distractions, and worry aside and simply sit at the feet of Jesus this Christmas season. Reflect, praise, pray, and worship the King who came to be our God so that we could be his people.