By Kelly Wright
I didn’t grow up observing advent. Except that one year we had a Charlie Brown Advent calendar that hung on the fridge that was more or less a way to count down the days to Christmas. My family definitely celebrated Christmas, but Advent is a newer tradition for me.
The observation of Advent is not so much a countdown to Christmas, but a time to prepare our hearts for the Christmas season. It’s not just celebrating one day, but four weeks of reflecting on Jesus’s coming then, now, and in the future. Advent begins this year on Sunday, November 28 and lasts until Christmas Eve.
A little background for those like me who are newer to this tradition. Advent literally means arrival or coming. Makes sense as we celebrate Jesus birth. During Advent we celebrate Jesus’s coming in three distinct ways.
First, Advent has historically been a space to remember Jesus’ coming into the world as Messiah.
Isaiah prophesied, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” Isaiah 9:2
The Israelites had been in darkness for hundreds of years. This wasn’t a literal not darkness – the sun still came up. But it was a darkness of separation from God. Isaiah proclaimed that the Messiah was coming, the great deliverer, who would save His people from their sins. Advent is remembering the celebration of Jesus’ birth over two thousand years ago.
Second, Advent is about celebrating Jesus coming into our individual lives as our Lord and Savior. It is also a season that creates space to notice the places where we need him most in our lives, places of darkness where we need His light.
Third, Advent is the celebration and the waiting for Christ to come again, where there will no longer be darkness as Jesus reigns forever.
There is much to reflect on and celebrate during Advent.
This year we invite you to join us for Simply Advent. Each week we’ll engage an advent theme as we reflect and celebrate. This week, the first week of Advent, we begin with the first theme, prepare.
Think back for a moment – When have you prepared for something big in your life? I think back to job interviews, my driver’s test, my oral defense for my doctorate, our wedding. What have you prepared for?
One of the biggest things I prepared for was having our first child. Of course, we had nine months to prepare and those months were filled with necessary preparations. I read so many books on parenting, got baby furniture, bought diapers and clothes, took childbirth classes. There were so many things that were needed to prepare for this baby. We prepared because we loved this little one so much. We planned and prepared as we made room for her coming into our lives.
A famous line in Isaac Watt’s beloved Christmas hymn, Joy to the World, says, “Let every heart prepare him room.” Just as we prepared room for our daughter’s arrival, Advent helps us prepare Jesus room in our busy lives. It is a time to ready our hearts and lives for the arrival of the King of Kings. And we prepare because we love.
But many times, even though we love Jesus and have the best of intentions, the busyness and preparations for the season don’t leave much room for preparing our souls for reflection and connection with the meaning of the season.
Ronald Rolheiser writes, “Our time of preparation is generally more of a time to prepare our houses than a time to prepare our souls, more a time of shopping than a time of prayer, and more of a time of already feasting than a time of fasting as a preparation for a feast. Today, Advent is perhaps more about already celebrating Christmas than it is about preparing for it. And the end result is that, like the biblical innkeepers who had no room for Mary and Joseph at the first Christmas, we generally arrive at Christmas with ‘no room at the inn,’ no space in our lives for a spiritual rebirth.”
God has an invitation for us this Christmas season. He’s putting out the invitation because He longs to connect with us as we reflect on the birth of Jesus.
We read in 1 John 4:9-10, “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love –not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”
We prepare because we love. We love because He first loved us. We prepare for the celebration of His coming by saying ‘yes’ to His invitations for reflection, connection, and considering the necessary preparation of our hearts.
To help with these necessary preparations, we have some invitations and options to help you prepare room in your hearts and lives this Advent season.
Here are some options to consider:
- 5-10 minutes a day to be intentional to focus on daily devotion, Scripture, prayer
- Watching the sunrise as a symbol of Jesus coming as the Light of the World
- Gratitude Journal
- Creative Advent Calendar https://prayingincolor.com/advent-calendar-templates-2021
- Other advent calendars
- Listen to a podcast, here are two recommendations:
Transforming Center – https://transformingcenter.org/strengthening-the-soul-of-your-leadership-podcast/
Living Hope Church – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/listen-advent-2021/id1596835419
- Weekly Advent devotion – email Kelly.firstname.lastname@example.org for a weekly devotion guide
- Lighting weekly Advent candle
- Tech free night once a week
- Engage with weekly blog on VUfaith.com
Mark your calendar for December 15. We will be hosting an Advent Experience at noon at the Underground. This will be a time of reflecting on the meaning of the season. Lunch will be provided and space is limited to 30. As the lunch experience fills up, we will open more times that day as needed.
- Sponsor a child or family
- Read the Christmas story in different version of the bible
- Other Creative Options https://www.saltproject.org/progressive-christian-blog/advent-resource-round-up
How is God inviting you to prepare the way for Christ’s coming in your life this season?