What is Advent?
You may be unfamiliar with the Christian liturgical year, and there may be confusion when you see church celebrating or calling this time of the year the Advent season. For most (unless you grew up in a liturgical structured church) you may not even know what the Advent season is all about.
The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.” Around the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the January celebration of Epiphany (the celebration of God taking on flesh seen in the visit of the Magi in Matthew 2:1-2, Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan in John 1:29-33, and Jesus’ first miracle at a wedding in John 2:1-11). This was a time celebrated for 40 days in penance (repenting of sin), prayer (talking and delighting in God), and fasting (giving up things for God) to prepare for this celebration. And in the beginning of this season there was no connection between Advent and Christmas.
However, Roman Christians, in the 6th century, tied Advent to the celebration of the coming of Jesus (God in the flesh). Yet, the beginning of this celebration of the “coming” was not focused on Jesus laying in a manger in the small town of Bethlehem, but in the longing to see Him coming from the clouds (His return in the flesh). The link to the manger did not happen until the Middle Ages.
Today, the Advent season begins on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and ends on the Sunday after Christmas. Christians all over the world celebrate the “coming” of God’s greatest gift to mankind, Jesus. This is a time to focus on who is most important and where our greatest joy is found. Our celebration is mixed with anticipation of Jesus.
This is a very busy time for everyone. From lights, black Friday, cyber Monday, decorations, planning, carols, and wrapping, Advent is a season that causes one mind and heart to focus on why this time even exists. We celebrate the most important birth in history. We read and sing about the “coming” one the one who as wrought and bought of rescuing. We proclaim in every song, card, and present: He is Here! This was the night when supernatural beings, shepherds, and even stars threw a party. And we at river city believe that as rescued children of Jesus we should do the same. This is the good news that brings great joy, because two thousand years ago our God took on flesh and lived with us, so that He could live in and through us.
The are many symbols that help us to stay focus and celebrate everything in us. Honestly, Advent can stir you heart for Jesus no matter what is going on in your life or your family’s life. You may walk in stores and see candles and wreaths. What is that about? Those two items mean so much.
Candles and Wreaths
When you are in a store, you will mostly likely past a box that has a wreath and 5 candle holders. You do not have to have these items to celebrate advent, but they can be used in a magnificent way to teach and lead your family and friends. the five candles are broken down to three that are purple, one that is pink, and one that is white. Each one represents a part of Jesus.
- Prophecy Candle (purple): This one represents that God made a promise to His people about the coming Rescuer and King. (i.e. Isaiah 9:6-7)
- Bethlehem Candle(purple): This one represent God’s love for us, because He kept His promise by sending the Rescuer and King Jesus, as a baby lying in a manger. Showing us the great length God went through for his people.
- Shepherd or Joy Candle (pink): This one represents the joy that God had in sending Jesus and also, the joy the shepherds had when the saw God in the flesh that night.
- Angel Candle (purple): This one represents the peace that the angels proclaimed to the earth Jesus would establish between God and man.
- Jesus Candle (white): This one represent Jesus as the lamb who has come to take away the sins of the world.
Advent and River City Life
Advent can be so much more for you then just setting your eyes on the important One of Christmas. It can be a tool to set your heart ablaze for what your heart truly longs for.
Jesus is the one who has broken all the barriers that separate us from our greatest joy. Jesus’ coming is about God’s reigning to win and mend the hearts of his children. It is his declaration that He loves you beyond what you could ever imagine. And when He becomes the focus of your life, everything that you do during this season will cause you to treasure Him even more.
We at river city desire to help you embrace Jesus more. As a Gospel community, river city is trekking through the Advent season together corporately and individually. So we have put together a road map to help you enjoy this season as much as possible. We hope that our advent readings and songs will guide you to the heart and purpose of Christmas, and stir you to spread the good news of great joy (Luke 2:10) as the angels proclaimed it. Click on the podcast below to brew with us this advent. Let us together celebrate and watch others celebrate in the God who Came and is Coming Back!
Our Readings and Focus Songs:
Introduction. Advent: Origins and Purpose
Week 1. Waiting: Reflecting on Jesus (Psalm 130:5-6)
Song: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Week 2. Prepare: Making Room for Jesus (Romans 8:18-23)
Song: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Week 3. Rejoice: Delighting in Jesus (Isaiah 9:2-7)
Song: Joy to The World
Week 4: Love: The Liberation of Jesus (John 3:16)
Song: He Shall Reign Forevermore
Week 5: Behold: Seeing Jesus (Matthew 1:18-25)
Song: O Holy Night
Week 6: Adore: Prizing Jesus (Matthew 2:1-11)
Song: We Three Kings
The Residence and Revelation by Kerr Howell Jr.
Holiday Traditions Born by Thomas Lambert
No More Shameful Christmas by Kerr Howell Jr.
Prepare Him Room by Jon Bloom
Seven Reasons to Celebrate Advent by Ryan Shelton
Advent is Slow (On Purpose) by Tony Reinke
Devotional: Free Download
The Dawning of Indestructible Joy