What is Advent?
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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 PETER 1:8–13
Toward the end of the fourth century, the churches of the Western Roman Empire settled on December 25 as the date for God’s people to mark the birth of Christ. They also instituted Advent as a season of preparation leading up to the celebration of Christmas. Just as the fasting and humility of Lent precedes the celebration of Easter, the anticipation of Advent precedes the joy of Christmas Day. The Advent season officially commences on the fourth Sunday (Advent Sunday) before Christmas and continues until Christmas Eve or Day. Various theological traditions celebrate the season through an array of customs.
Perhaps there is no more popular tradition associated with the season is the use of an Advent calendar to mark the month of December. Modern Advent calendars typically include 24 “windows” that are opened (one per day) to reveal a poem, portion of Scripture, story, picture or small gift. As more windows are opened, expectancy increases in awaiting the final day, which represents the first advent of Christ.
Another popular tradition involves the use of an Advent candle or candles. This symbolic tradition is borrowed from the emphasis throughout Scripture of Jesus Christ being the light of the world (Matthew 4:16; John 1:4-9, 8:12). Those using one candle burn a little each day to mark the progression of the season. Each day a bit more of the candle is burned to symbolize the anticipation of Christmas. Others use a wreath with five candles in the middle. Each week a new candle is lit in anticipation of the final lighting on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Ultimately, the King is coming. Jesus Christ has come and will come again. This is the hope of the Church whom He purchased with His blood. It is the eager expectation and desire of His people. In His coming is our joy, for He is our treasure, our greatest good.