A friend asked me why some Christians celebrate advent. I didn’t know the answer, so I decide to research and find out.
Do Christians celebrate advent? Yes, some Christians celebrate advent. Christians are not required to celebrate advent. People celebrate advent to remember the birth of Christ.
I personally am a Christian and have never celebrated Advent – not growing up participating in it. I didn’t know much about the practices, origin, or who really celebrated it before writing this blog post.
If you would like to find out more about the practices of Advent and who celebrates it, keep reading below.
Do Christians Celebrate Advent?
Many Christian churches in the Western tradition: Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and numerous other Protestant churches choose to participate within about a month-long period with special observances, called Advent.
Not all Christians who might fall under one of these categories all participate in Advent. Some might, and some might not.
Do Christians Celebrate Advent Today?
The majority of people who celebrate advent today are Catholics. But not all Catholics celebrate Advent, and some chose not to as well.
I believe it is up to the believer whether or not they want to participate in Advent.
Christians are welcome to participate in Advent if they want.
Some of the reason Catholics celebrate Advent is they find it a “joyful preparation; a season of great hope.”
If we fully enter into its celebration, we will be constantly invited through our liturgical readings and practices, to clear away all that entangles us and open a space in our hearts, our homes, our relationships, and our lives, for Love Incarnate to be born again.”Keith Fournier
He says that by celebrating Jesus’ birth and advent, we are reminded to open our hearts for what is important.
He also says:
For me, celebrating Advent, indeed celebrating all the seasons of the Church year, are continual calls back to faith, repentance, conversion, and holiness of life, the things that really matter.Keith Fournier
He says for some Advent has become like an empty ritual, but that is not how it should be.
What is Advent? Meaning, Origin, & How It’s Celebrated
Advent is centered around a biblical idea of preparing for the celebration of Christ.
Meaning of Advent
The word advent comes from the Latin term adventus meaning “arrival” or “coming.” The word advent usually means preparations for the arrival in something important coming.
How Long Does it Last?
In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30th.
Advent lasts through Christmas Eve or December 24th. When Christmas Eve is on a Sunday, it is the last or fourth Sunday of Advent.
Advent originally was a four-week period that can last anywhere from 22-28 days.
It would begin on the Sunday closest to the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle (November 30) and continue through the following three Sundays.
This period was a time for those who had just become Christian to prepare for baptism.
However, now it is more common for those today who participate in Advent to do so to anticipate the anniversary of Christ’s birth celebrated on December 25.
Most Advent calendars today start on December 1st.
For Eastern Orthodox churches that use the Julian calendar, Advent begins earlier, on November 15, and lasts 40 days rather than four weeks (in a parallel to the 40 days of Lent prior to Easter).
Advent is also known in Orthodox Christianity as the Nativity Fast.
Origin of Advent
Many believe Advent began a little while after the 4th century as a time of fasting and preparation for Epiphany, not because of the anticipation of Christmas.
Epiphany is where one celebrates the manifestation of Christ by remembering when the wise men (they include some traditions and the Baptism of Jesus).
Many focused on Jesus’ becoming flesh on Earth. During this time period, new Christians were baptized and received into the faith.
The early church instituted a 40-day period of fasting and repentance.
Later, in the 6th century, St. Gregory the Great was the first to associate this season of Advent with the coming of Christ.
Originally it was not the coming of the Messiah as a child that was anticipated, but instead the Second Coming of Christ that was celebrated.
By the Middle Ages, four Sundays had become the standard length of the Advent season, with fasting and repentance during that time. The church extended the meaning of Advent at this time.
They didn’t just celebrate Christ through his birth in Bethlehem, they also focused on Jesus’ second coming, and God’s presence that is with us now through the Holy Spirit.
Many modern-day Advent services include symbolic customs related to all three of these “advents” of Christ.
How Advent Is Celebrated
In Western Christianity, celebrating Advent involves spending time in spiritual preparation for the coming birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas.
What does this look like for the modern-day Christian as one does prepare for Christmas in celebrating Advent?
Advent is a period of spiritual preparation in which many Christians make themselves ready for the coming, or birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Celebrating Advent typically involves a season of prayer, fasting, and repentance, followed by anticipation, hope, and joy.
Today, there are many different variations and interpretations of Advent customs that exist today. The customs and traditions depend on the denomination and type of service being observed.
Some Christians choose to add in some Advent activities into their family holiday traditions, even when their church does not formally recognize a season of Advent.
Many have done this as a way of keeping Christ at the center of their Christmas celebrations.
Some families have a time of worship around the Advent wreath, Jesse Tree, or Nativity.
Some families may choose to not put up Christmas decorations until Christmas Eve as a way of focusing on the idea that Christmas is not yet here.
Preparations for Advent: many chose to buy an advent wreath along with 4 candles (purple and rose – many buy these from any store or order them online).
Then those celebrating Advent set aside 10-15 minutes daily for a time of devotion and candle lighting.
Different denominations utilize certain symbolism during the season. For instance, in the Catholic Church, priests wear purple vestments during Advent (just like they do during Lent). They will often pause during Mass saying the “Gloria” until Christmas arrives.
What Does The Bible Say About Advent?
I haven’t seen anywhere in Scripture that does specifically talk on Advent. But we can look further into what they do participate in when celebrating Advent to see if it is Biblical.
The four themes for the four Sundays of Advent are:
- God’s People – The Candle of Hope
- The Old Testament Prophets – The Candle of Peace
- John the Baptist – The Candle of Love
- Mary the Mother of Jesus – The Candle of Joy
For the first theme (God’s people) I found they celebrate the hope we have in Jesus being reminded of it by looking at what they call the Candle of Hope. “Hope is like a light shining in a dark place.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.Romans 15:13
By the power of the Holy Spirit we can have hope.
For the second theme (the Old Testament Prophets) they use the Candle of Peace. “Peace is like a light shining in a dark place.”
They say as they look at this candle they celebrate the peace we found in Jesus.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6
Jesus not only gives us peace, he is the Prince of Peace.
For the third theme, (John the Baptist) they use the Candle of Love. “Love is like a candle shining in a dark place.” They say as we look at this candle we celebrate the love we have in Christ.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.1 John 3:16
True love is when Jesus laid down his life for us. We are also to walk in that love towards others. Jesus is the greatest example of love, he shows us what love is by freely giving it to us.
For the final theme (Mary the Mother of Jesus) they use the Candle of Joy. “Joy is like a light shining in a dark place.” They say as they look at this candle we can celebrate the joy we find in Jesus Christ.
Even though we do not see Jesus, we can still love Him and believe in Him. We still can rejoice and have joy the is unexplainable.
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,1 Peter 1:8
This kind of joy is a kind of contentment in our hearts knowing that no matter what our circumstances are on Earth, we can be fully satisfied in Christ.
John 15:11 says:
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.John 15: 11
Some also use the fifth candle that represents the Birth of Christ. “The flame of the candle reminds us that He is the light of the world and if we follow Him, we will never walk in darkness, but have the true light of life.”
Multiple verses talk on Jesus as the light.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”John 8:12
Other verses can be found in John 1:5, Psalm 119:105, 1 John 1:7, Matthew 5:14, Ephesians 5:8, 1 Peter 2:8, and so many more talk on Jesus as a light.
In my understanding, all of these themes are true according to Scripture. Hope, peace, love, and joy all can be found in Jesus.
Jesus is the light and candles are used to bring light. So, it makes sense they use candles as a symbol to represent Christ.
Are Using Candles Or Symbols Necessary To Come to God?
In the Old Testament passages, candles and lamps were lit before the Lord in the tabernacle and, later, in the temple ( Leviticus 24: 3-4 ). Many of the symbols used by the Israelites in the Old Testament pointed to Jesus.
But now Jesus, the true light has come ( John 1: 3-5 ). Symbols, like candles, are not necessary to come to Jesus.
A prayer with a lighted candle is the same as a prayer without a candle for God. God doesn’t need symbols or rituals to come to him. God cares more about the heart than outward appearance or acts. We don’t need to make sacrifices like buying candles to win God’s favor.
All over the Bible, it talks about God not caring about outward appearances but cares more about the heart.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.Psalm 51:16-17
Only in Jesus, our heart can be made clean, and we can be covered by his blood seen as clean before a Holy God.
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.Romans 10:9-10
I personally don’t think it is wrong to still use symbols to be reminded of Jesus’ truths. As long as we know that it is not what brings us to God. We can worship and praise the Lord without symbols, rituals, or laws.
Jesus came so that we could freely come to God. With that being said, I don’t think it is wrong to participate in the practices of Advent.
I think it can be beneficial in dedicating time to solely focus on who God is in preparation for celebrating His birth.
I think one gets to chose whether or not they take part in Advent, and even Christmas. And I know that many do celebrate this holiday, and some don’t – some of the reason being they never grew up with doing it.
I believe we should always be celebrating Jesus’ birth, his works on the cross, resurrection, accession back into heaven, and be worshiping Jesus for simply who He is.
However, realistically speaking, this doesn’t always happen, and more times than not we are not celebrating Christ.
Jesus says that we are to be continually offering up praise and prayers to Him. I think this is a habit all Christians are to be practicing.
So many Christians do celebrate Advent, and many don’t. The Bible isn’t clear on this matter, but is clear that we are to always be lifting up an attitude of gratitude praising the Father for who he is, and all he has done.