For those of us that are part of a “low church” congregation, Advent is a foreign concept. It makes us nervous that we are adopting “high church” liturgy and losing that which makes us distinct from our more liturgical sisters and brothers.
Bonhoeffer wrote: “the celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.”
The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia. Parousia is a word theologians use as a technical term for the Second Coming of Christ. It is fitting that this word that is used to discuss His second coming is also used as we remember His first.
The season of Advent lasts for four Sundays. It begins on a Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year. This year, Advent begins on Sunday, November 29th. It is usually noted by calendars or other aids to draw our attention to the significance of this season. Some families, or churches, use Advent wreaths. The Advent wreath first appeared in Germany in 1839. A Lutheran minister working at a mission for children created a wreath out of the wheel of a cart. He placed twenty small red candles and four large white candles inside the ring. The red candles were lit on weekdays and the four white candles were lit on Sundays. Eventually, the Advent wreath was created out of evergreens, symbolizing everlasting life in the midst of winter and death. The circle reminds us of God’s unending love and the eternal life He makes possible. Advent candles are often nestled in the evergreen wreath. The most common Advent candle tradition involves four candles. A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Each candle represents something different. The four candles represent hope, faith, joy, and peace. The first, second, and fourth candles are purple; the third candle is rose-colored. A fifth white candle is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
The point of Advent is for Christians to prepare their hearts for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. In the West, we are bombarded with getting “ready” for Christmas. Sadly, we have lost our understanding of what Christmas is. We focus on a deluge of gifts that we give, or receive, while losing sight of the Gift that God gave to us in Emmanuel.
One of my favorite hymns to sing during Advent is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
What a wonderful reminder of exactly Who Jesus is! This Advent season, let’s ignore the hustle and bustle the world tries to crush us with during this wonderful season and focus on preparing our hearts for the coming, and soon second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ! Spend time reading God’s Word and allow Him to prepare our hearts for the gift that only He can give! Develop a relationship with someone who doesn’t know Jesus as their savior, and share Him so that they may also know the eternal gift of salvation!
May our hearts truly be able to sing: O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer, Our spirits by Thine advent here; Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Below is a series of readings for each Sunday of Advent for you to use in your personal worship. If you would like a plan that will have you in the Word each day of this season, a very helpful devotional guide is found here (Each day has a Bible reading, a short devotion, a call to action, and a prayer):
First Sunday of Advent Readings: Hope
Isaiah 9:2, 6-7: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. […] For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
Alternate readings: Psalm 122; Isaiah 2:2-5; Romans 13:11-14
Second Sunday of Advent Readings: Preparation
Isaiah 40:3-5: “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’”
Alternate readings: Psalm 72:18; Isaiah 11:1-10; Luke 1:26-38
Third Sunday of Advent Readings: Joy
Matthew 2:10-11, “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (NIV)
Alternate readings: Psalm 146:5-10; Isaiah 35:1-10; Luke 2:8-14
Fourth Sunday of Advent Readings: Love
John 3:16-19, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
Alternate readings: Psalm 24:1-10; Isaiah 7:10-14; Luke 2:8-20; John 1:14; John 3:16; 1 John 4:10
Fifth Sunday (Christmas Eve): Adoration
John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
Alternate readings: Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-40; Titus 2:11-14; Psalm 96