Advent 101: What Is Advent?

For all of us Advent novices, it’s helpful to know that this season marks the start of the Christian year; basically, it is the Church’s New Year’s Day! It starts four weeks before Christmas, around November 30 or the nearest Sunday to it.

The term “Advent” comes from the Latin word for ‘arrival.’ As early as the 6th century of the Christian era, Christians fasted and meditated throughout this period in preparation for Christmas. Many took this fast just as seriously as they did the Lenten fast at Easter.

However, Advent is more than just a preparatory season for Christmas Day:

“Christ is knocking. It’s still not Christmas, but it’s also still not the great last Advent, the last coming of Christ. Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate runs the longing for the last Advent, when the word will be: ‘See, I am making all things new’ (Rev. 21:5)” (God Is in the Manger, pg 2).

When we celebrate Advent, we also anticipate Christ’s Second Advent (or ‘arrival’). Indeed, we can celebrate Jesus’ first coming at Christmas because we believe He is coming again. Without Jesus’ second coming, Christmas would just be another memorial holiday. Instead, each Advent and Christmas let us celebrate the past while offering hope for the future!

Deitrich Bonhoeffer understand the importance of both. In case you don’t recognize his name, Bonhoeffer was a German pastor during WWII who stood up against Nazism. He died in prison just 10 days before the Germans surrendered. Although he longed for another Advent season with his family, friends, and fiancée, he trusted even more in the One who had promised a Second Arrival and the Renewal of all things.


Photo by Adam Russell (Flickr)