Advent is a season in the Church calendar dedicated to the hopeful anticipation for the arrival or "advent" of Jesus of Nazareth. During the four-week period leading up to Christmas, many Advent observers engage in prayer, meditation, and Scripture study that emphasizes hope, peace, love, and joy. Christians from many backgrounds celebrate this time, and while their practices may look different, all focus on the hope-filled arrival of Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah and King.
Download the Advent Word Study Guide and dive into the deeper meaning behind Advent.
Advent means "arrival" and signifies the start of an event or the arrival of a person. We might use the word to talk about "the advent of the Internet" or "the advent of the pandemic." In Christian communities around the world, Advent refers to a four-week season of remembering and celebrating the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth on Earth.
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 that functions as a festive countdown to Christmas. 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. so that humanity can be healed and at peace with God. Then, during the last two weeks of Advent, these communities focus on the birth of Jesus.
In other traditions, people focus on four topics—hope, peace, love, and joy—one for each week leading up to Christmas. People may light Advent candles or prepare Advent wreaths, hold special church services or read specific Scriptures each day, and some use an Advent calendar to build anticipation for Christmas.
What Parts of the Bible Inform Our Understanding of Advent?
From the first story in the Bible to the last, we see narratives, poetry, prophecy, biographies, and personal letters that inform our understanding of Advent in unique ways. Whenever the Bible talks about humans waiting and hoping for God to act, it can deepen our understanding of Advent (e.g., Amos 9:11-13). When we read about people who are filled with peace or joy because of the promises of God being fulfilled, this too can develop our understanding of Advent (e.g., 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 join in that hopeful anticipation, shared by Christians throughout history (e.g., Rev. 21:1-5).
Test Your Knowledge
People from which of the following Church traditions celebrate Advent?
Not everyone in each tradition celebrates Advent, and the specific rituals and practices vary from community to community, but overall, 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.