Advent is a four-week season in the Church calendar dedicated to anticipating the arrival, or "advent," of Jesus of Nazareth, the long-awaited Messiah and King. Christians from many backgrounds celebrate this time with reflections on hope, peace, love, and joy. And while their practices may look different, all focus on the hope-filled arrival of Jesus.
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Advent means "arrival" and signifies the start of an event or the arrival of a person. In Christian communities around the world, Advent refers to a four-week season of remembering and celebrating the arrival of Jesus on Earth. It’s a time to reflect on the unexpected nature of Jesus’ humble birth and join in the anticipation of when he will come again to reunite Heaven and Earth once and for all.
While the title "Advent" refers to the four-week Church celebration leading up to Christmas, the term itself means the arrival or beginning of something or someone.
Why Is Advent Important?
Advent can be a simple and fun tradition of counting down to Christmas. But for others—particularly those who believe Jesus to be the incarnation of God and the long-awaited Messiah—Advent is a shared experience of meditation and prayer that celebrates the arrival of Jesus.
People from Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and other Christian traditions celebrate Advent, though the specific practices may vary from community to community. Additionally, some people celebrate Advent without the focus on Jesus' arrival, seeing the tradition as a fun way to countdown to Christmas.
The Big Idea
For Christians around the world, Advent refers to the four weeks leading up to Christmas, where communities remember and celebrate the arrival of Jesus and join together in the hope of his ultimate return.
How Is Advent Typically Celebrated?
In some traditions, followers of Jesus devote the first two weeks of Advent to remembering Jesus' promise to return and renew Heaven and Earth. Then, during the last two weeks of Advent, these communities focus on the birth of Jesus.
In other traditions, people reflect on the concepts of hope, peace, love, and joy—one for each week leading up to Christmas. People may light Advent candles, prepare unique wreaths, hold special church services, or read specific Scriptures each day to reflect on the arrival of Jesus on Earth.
What Parts of the Bible Inform Our Understanding of Advent?
From the first story to the last, the Bible is full of narratives, poetry, prophecy, biographies, and personal letters that inform our understanding of Advent. When the Bible talks about humans waiting for the promised anointed King who would deliver them, it can help us connect with their anticipation (Amos 9:11-13). When we read about people choosing joy and hope in God’s promises despite their circumstances, the meaning of Advent can take on a deeper meaning (Isa. 9:6-7, 11:1-5; Luke 1:26-2:20). And when the New Testament talks about a second advent, the return of Jesus, we can join in that time of waiting, shared by Christians throughout history (Rev. 21:1-5).
Test Your Knowledge
People from which of the following Church traditions celebrate Advent?
Not all people from Christian traditions celebrate Advent, and the specific rituals and practices vary from community to community. But people from each of these communities celebrate Advent.
BibleProject designed Advent Reflections to inspire individuals, small groups, and families to celebrate the arrival of Jesus. This four-week plan incorporates animated videos, short summaries, and reflective questions to help you explore the biblical meaning of hope, peace, love, and joy.