Growing up, I had never heard the term Advent.
I was completely grown and had experienced the Christmas season in several different churches. Yet, advent was not a part of any of them. And I really don’t know the history behind it. Is an advent calendar the same or is it different than counting down to Christmas?
I don’t know if this tradition is exclusive to just a few denominations, the church I attend has included this tradition in every Christmas season that I have attended (8 years), or not, but it seems like I see more and more on it.
So this year, I am learning more. I am seeking to see if a tradition can be added to our personal experience during the Christmas season, rather than just Sundays with the lighting of the candles. And I have to say, this has been an interesting topic.
Turns out the season of Advent goes back to the early church, 1st and 2nd century. While an exact date is not actually known, the traditions can be traced back to this time. Early Christian's focus during this season was:
Many traditions have evolved over the centuries, in various regions, that aided in keeping the reason for the season, the reason. At the same time, most Western Churches ceased to practice or observe the tradition, thus the reason for this seeming so foreign to me - I had attended those that did not. While the church I attend now does, I came in not at the beginning of a new tradition but one that was already established and one that I did not fully understand. I thought it was just something unique and creative to this church, not knowing it was set in a very long tradition for many Christians.
- Remember the coming of the Son of God to earth in human form as a babe in the manger
- The coming of Jesus into the lives and hearts and actions of those that accepted Him as their Savior
- The future coming when Jesus will return to the earth as a king - "O come, O come, Emmanuel
Candles and wreaths and calendars...I did have a calendar growing up, and I do remember the paper chains. I don't remember them having any symbolism beyond a day closer to the receiving of gifts and the jolly, rosy cheeked chap that would sneak in during the night to leave wonderful things kids dream of.
But now, I wish I had known more about the season of Advent as Advent. I wish so many churches had not turned away from the Advent tradition. What a great way to guide families through the hustle and bustle of the season while showing clearly where the joy, anticipation, caring, and giving (not necessarily materially, not necessarily not) should be centered.
Searching through the stories and traditions is giving me what I needed this season. A lighted path to what I hope to add to our Christmas season days over the next month.
Do you observe Advent? Do you have a personal tradition that is considered an Advent tradition?