- Advent is not about rituals and remembrances. The lighting of four candles leading up to Christmas or even other good rituals or remembrances, such as an Advent calendar, are often images that come to our minds when we think about Advent. This is how many churches pause to remember the Advent season over the four Sundays leading up until Christmas, sometimes even with a different family lighting a candle each Sunday. While these things may be tools and ways to help us reflect on Advent, the heart of Advent is found in its meaning, “the coming or arrival.” We should be reminded that just as the ancient Israelites waited for the coming of the Messiah in flesh, we too are waiting.
- Advent is not Christmas. The essence of Christmas is actually contrary to the focus of Advent in many ways. While there is nothing wrong with celebrating Christ’s birth, it is a problem when it becomes more about baking, shopping, and gifts than the waiting and reflecting on Christ. Christmas is all about celebration, in the here and now, not about longing and waiting, which is the essence of Advent.
- Advent is not about busyness and impatience. During the season of Advent, we should seek to prioritize quietness and make time for worshipful silence. In our busy world, Advent is a time when Christians are supposed to slow down and take time to reflect on Christ our Savior and His birth and coming to earth as a man. Too often, things just get busier this time of year, and this is why it is crucial for us to set aside time to be still before the Lord and worship Him. We often try to fill the silence, but there is a unique purpose for it, and we should value our quiet moments to reflect on Jesus’ birth. Our good intentions are not enough. We must deliberately set aside time to reflect on Christ and how He came to earth as a man, lived a perfect life, and ultimately died on the cross to pay the price for our sins (Rom 5:8).
- Advent is not about us. Rather, Advent should remind us of how we are called to serve others as Christ did. This season can become very “me”-centered if we are not careful to remember God’s gift of His only Son. A few practical ways we can remember and reflect are by spending time in solitude, taking a long walk, reading God’s Word, and by serving others. We are also called to serve others and show them Christ’s love as we share of His incarnation (Matt. 20:26-28; John 1:14).
- Advent is not only about Christ’s coming, but also about His second coming. As believers, we should not only rejoice in how Christ came down to us, but also look forward to His return when He will take us home. We live in a fallen world, and our only hope of eternity is found in Christ. Thank Him for sending His son and live in anticipation of His return.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, who look forward to something greater to come. For these, it is enough to wait in humble fear until the Holy One himself comes down to us, God in the child in the manger. God comes. The Lord Jesus comes. Christmas comes. Christians rejoice!”*
*Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, and Edwin H. Robertson. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Christmas sermons. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005.