There are so many things I love about the Advent season. Even though it wasn’t something my family did when I was growing up, celebrating this special season before Christmas has become a key part of our family’s annual tradition. Since I didn’t really know much about Advent until I was an adult, I have enjoyed learning about it and sharing it with my own family.
What is Advent and why do we celebrate it?
Advent means “arrival.” It typically celebrated on the four Sundays before Christmas when we think about waiting for the coming of the baby Jesus. Advent is a time to prepare our hearts for the gift of Christ’s coming. Though there is no documented “first Advent,” I like to think of the time Mary spent waiting for her son to be born as just that. Like any expectant mother, she had to have been filled with so many thoughts and questions!
My Favorite Tradition
Lighting the Advent wreath has become a tradition that means a great deal to me. Each week, we read scripture and light a new candle with a special name: hope, faith, joy, and peace. On Christmas, we light the final candle to honor the birth of Christ. The concept of Christ as the light that shines in the darkness fills me with hope. Seeing the flickering light of the candle reassures that Christ\’s light will not be overcome by the darkness (John 1:5) no matter what my circumstances look like.
Here are a couple of pictures of Advents past when we\’ve lit the candles at church and at home. Audrey always dreads lighting the candles because the lighter never works!
Christmas Eve at home, 2013
Christmas Eve at First UMC, 2016
Why does Advent matter to me?
Why am I so drawn to the traditions of the season? I think what I love about Advent, at least in part, is the countdown! I\’ve always been one to mark a date of something on my calendar and count the weeks, days, and hours until it happens. I enjoy the measurable anticipation. But why is Advent more special to me than counting down to Spring Break or my birthday?
It\’s because of what I\’m waiting for. It\’s the knowledge that the light is coming to show me the way out of my darkness. Those quiet mornings when I\’m reading my Advent devotional while everyone else is still asleep, I\’m able to put aside all the busy-ness in my life and really focus on that feeling of anticipation. Taking the time to put myself in Mary\’s place, even just a little, fills me with hope, peace, faith, and joy. It prepares my heart to be filled with the greatest gift of all- Christ.