Advent: Find What You're Looking For

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Welcome to the holiday season.

Depending on what your schedule is like in the coming weeks, that greeting will either stir up a joyful anticipation or an anxiety-ridden dread. 

The holidays are funny like that, aren’t they? We so long to feel the magic we once felt as children, but somehow, we can’t quite seem to get there. 

We buy grande peppermint mochas and drink them from red cups. We head to our local hardware store and pick out the perfect tree. We decorate said tree, downing hot cocoa and mulled wine. We buy gifts, and we wrap them. We donate coats and canned good. We sing carols and bake cookies, and all along we long. We yearn. We wait and anticipate, looking back, begging that childhood Christmas to come again. 

Could it be, though, that we’re looking in the wrong direction? What if, instead of peering backward, hoping to recapture what once was, we celebrate what is and look forward to something yet to come.

Advent is that ‘is’ and that ‘yet to come.’ 

It’s the season where we celebrate Jesus who already came to earth, while simultaneously looking forward to when He will come again.

While the exact history of Advent is a little muddy, its earliest roots can be traced back to the early 4th century in modern day Spain where Christians observed a three-week season of preparation to celebrate the baptism of new believers. This baptism took place in January at the feast of Epiphany. 

Eventually, the church in France established a Lenten fasting period that lasted from November 11th to Christmas day. Originally, this period of fasting had little connection with Christmas and looked more like the penitential practice of Lent and less like the celebratory season we see today. 

Over time, however, the period of preparation shifted to look toward Christmas and the second coming of Christ. Pope St. Gelasius was the first pope to write liturgies for the five Sundays of Advent, and later, Pope St .Gregory added prayers, readings, and responses to these liturgies, reducing the number of Sundays to four. By the ninth century, the Catholic Church established the first Sunday of Advent to the be the first day of the liturgical year.

While the original focus of Advent rested solely on the anticipated coming of Christ, today, we split the Advent season into two sections: the first two Sundays focus on the second coming, while the last two Sundays focus on preparing for the celebration of the birth of Christ.

Advent always begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, which means this year, 2018, Advent starts on December 2nd or this Sunday.

If you’re like me, Advent is a fairly new practice, but one I have come to love. Setting aside intentional time to savor the season in a way that both honors my faith tradition and begs me to slow down enough to soak in the more material pleasures of Christmas (like hanging stockings with my husband and visiting Chicago’s Christkindlmarket) is something I look forward to every year.

Ann Voskamp said it best when she said, “{God} gives us the gift of time so we have time to stop and be still.”

Accept the invitation that Advent extends to you today. Slow down. Anticipate the coming of Jesus - the one that is and the one that is yet to come - and discover, even deeper, the gift that is Christ at Christmas.

Listed below are a few recommended resources to help you and/or your family celebrate Advent this season: 

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

Ann Voskamp is a beautifully poetic writer who captures the essence of wonder from the get go. Join her on this 25-day journey to unwrapping the greatest gift you could receive this Christmas: the presence of Jesus. This book also contains an option to download 25 paper ornaments to add an interactive element to Advent, and those of you with children might enjoy the pop-up version of the book, designed specifically for families. 

The Advent Jesse Tree by Dean Lambert

This was the first Advent study I ever did, and I often return to it. This little red book is great because it features shorter daily readings for those walking through Advent with children and longer, more in depth readings for adults to dive into on their own.

She Reads Truth

This is a beautiful study that comes with options. You can purchase the hard copy study book, or hop onto the She Reads Truth app for an Advent study you can easily access no matter where you are. She Reads Truth studies are great because they’re packed with rich, biblical content, while also offering they fun surprises like recipes and craft ideas in the book, which further help you enjoy the Christmas season in more ways than one

I hope you find one of these resources helpful. And if you have an Advent resources that you think everyone needs to know about, let us know what is in the comments! 

Holcomb, J. (2014, Nov. 24) What is Advent? Retrieved from

Reeves, R. (2016, Nov. 28) The History of Advent. Retrieved from

Saunders, W. (2016, Nov 28) The History of Advent. Retrieved from

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