Most people think that Christmas is about presents, family gatherings, or peace on earth – and to some, that is all it is. But from God’s perspective, Christmas is the story of a God of love who desires to have a lifelong relationship with you. That is why Advent is such a special observance for a Christian – and why following an Advent calendar is a wonderful holiday tradition to start for you and your family.
Understanding that God wants to spend time with you is how to understand what Christmas is about.
That’s why the Father sent Jesus to be born – He was fully God and fully human. Christ’s birth set in motion a plan of love that would culminate in Jesus’ death and resurrection. By going to the cross, Jesus paid for the sins of all mankind and reunited mankind with a loving Heavenly Papa.
A meaningful Christian tradition to help people experience God’s presence is called Advent – which means ‘coming’ in Latin. This spiritual journey helps a believer focus on the mean of the coming of Christ into the world. Over the centuries, Christians have observed the four Sundays and weeks prior to Christmas to prepare for and observe the real meaning of Christmas.
The celebration of Advent dates back at least to 567 AD, according to WhyChristmas.com, when monks were commanded to fast during December in anticipation of Christmas. Today there are Christians around the world who still fast during Advent as a sign of their devotion to God. Orthodox Christians often fast from meat and dairy, and sometimes wine and fish during the Advent season.
If you and your family decide to observe Advent, we encourage you to sign up to receive the weekly email from Focus on the Family. You can also go the our Advent 2022 webpage.
There are still many who celebrate in non-technical ways. Some European countries use an Advent wreath of fir with 24 backs or boxes hanging from it. In each box there is a little present for each day. (More)
Lighting Advent Candles
Many Christians also observe the season by lighting Advent candles for the four weeks prior to Christmas. There are two types of Advent candles. The first has the days up to Christmas marked down the side of the candle. On the first day of December the candle is lit and burnt down to the first line of the candle. This is repeated every day, and then the rest of the candle is burnt on Christmas Day.
The Advent Crown is another method of observance using candles. The crown is often comprised of a wreath of greenery with four candles around the outside and one in the center, or in a separate place. One candle is lit on the first Sunday of Advent; two are lit on the second Sunday, and so on through Christmas Day.
James Cooper of WhyChristmas.com shares symbolism attached to the Advent Crown by Christians throughout the centuries:
- To begin, the first week represents Isaiah and the other prophets that predicted the coming of Jesus.
- The second week represents the Bible.
- The third week represents Mary, the mother of Jesus.
- Finally, the fourth week represents John the Baptist, who told the people in Israel to get ready for Jesus’ teaching.
The middle or separate candle is lit on Christmas Day, representing Jesus, the Light of the World.
Emmanuel: God With Us
The Bible says that God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden, so living with mankind in daily relationship was God’s idea from the beginning. God promised a Savior because he wanted to renew intimate fellowship with mankind.
During the Christmas season, we often sing the classic hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The text is based on the biblical prophecy from Isaiah 7:14:
…the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (ESV).
The name Emmanuel literally means “God with us.” God gave Jesus to mankind as the first Christmas present.
The Apostle Paul speaks of the wonder of this idea.
…God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27, ESV)
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. (2 Cor. 5:18, NLT)
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10, ESV)
Jesus explained that relationship with God is precious and should be our highest priority in this life.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:7-8, NKJV)
God’s desire is that His children remain in fellowship with Him for all eternity. We see this in the beautiful hope-filled words of Apostle John in his revelation:
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.” (Rev. 21:3, NLT)
This is the glorious news that we proclaim to the nations, that Jesus is Emmanuel. By His shed blood, He has ransomed all of mankind and now He lives with us through the precious Holy Spirit.
We encourage you to observe Advent this year as a way to grow closer to God and your family. Have a very Merry Christmas knowing that God loves you and wants to be with you. May you know the presence of your Heavenly Father in a special way during the Advent Season.