what is advent

My wife and I decided to forego the traditional Advent calendar for our kids this year.

At first, we thought that it would be a letdown for the children to not have something to open up every day. It was an easier decision once we saw that our children don’t need daily reminders of a Christmas countdown.

You know how with your children, you count “sleeps” until the big day?

“18 more sleeps until Christmas time!” I would say.

My middle child rolls his eyes. “It’s actually 445 hours, 6 minutes, and 11 seconds, Dad.”

Wow.

They do NOT need reminders of how long it is until Christmas.

But we sometimes do need reminders of what Christmas is about. That’s why the church holds this “Advent” tradition. Advent, in the Latin, means “coming.” And it’s a shame we don’t use that word more often.

Before the movie: “Advent soon to a theatre near you!”

If your Mom calls you for dinner: “OK, Mom, advent!”

And who could forget great songs like “She’ll Be Advent ‘Round the Mountain”; “Santa Claus is Advent to Town”; or that classic Stevie Wonder album, “Where I’m Advent From.”

OK, maybe it’s wise that we don’t use that word so often.

But we do tend to forget why we use it. Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, reminds us that Jesus is coming. We don’t light these fancy candles every week to remind us that Christmas is coming. I have my kids for that. “It’s now 445 hours, 4 minutes, and 30 seconds, Dad!”

We’re reminded of three things: His first coming as a little baby into the world; His current coming into our lives; and the future when He’s coming back again. That was the first intention of Advent.

Now, we use Advent as a way to remind us that, in spite of the growing excitement of Christmas, we celebrate a different reality altogether. We can celebrate the past events in a tiny animal shed 2000 years ago. We can celebrate the present (Get it? Present? The double meaning of “gift” and “now”? See what I did there?) of Jesus coming into our hearts. And we can also celebrate the certain future of His Second Coming.

I’m certain that when I’m old and grey, I’ll be talking with my kids about the lead-up to Christmas, about how, in my day, we didn’t see Christmas supplies in Costco until October. Unlike now, when they’re up as early as February 26.

So, maybe as a suggestion for next year, should we start our Advent a little earlier?

Can we bump it into an 8-week thing? 12 weeks? That would be a lot of candles by the time Christmas rolls around, but I’ve seen fire extinguishers around the church. I’m sure we can manage it.

At any rate, I like the tradition of remembering Christ’s Advent, or coming into this world at this time of year. If only we had a chocolate calendar to remember this part of Christmas.

  • Written by Jeremy Dyck