If you’re unfamiliar with the liturgical year, you may be somewhat confused about the meaning and significance of the Advent season. As well as focusing on the expectation and anticipation of Christ’s birth in the weeks leading up to Christmas, but there’s a lot more to Advent for Christians to understand.
The history of Advent
‘Advent’ comes from the Latin word adventus, which means ‘coming’. It’s thought that in the 4th and 5th centuries in Gaul and Spain, Advent was a time for the preparation for the baptisms of new Christians at Epiphany, Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist and Jesus’ first miracle at Cana. The 4th and 5th centuries saw Advent as a time for prayer, penance and fasting in order to prepare for celebrations at Epiphany – there was almost no connection between Christmas and Advent.
In the 6th century, however, things had changed and Advent was closely associated with the second coming of Christ as the judge of the world, and it wasn’t until the middle ages that Advent was linked with Christ’s first coming and Christmas.
Advent today lasts for the four Sundays prior to Christmas, with the Christian new year beginning with the twelve days of Christmastide (which starts from Christmas Eve up until January 6th and Epiphany). This means that Advent can fall anywhere between November 26th and December 3rd, and this year it will fall on December 3rd.
Advent and modern Christian life
No one can deny that Advent is a great time of anticipation and celebration of Christ’s birth, but this time also helps us to fully understand the miracle of Christmas and Christian life. Advent is the time to think of Christ’s fulfilled promise of His first coming and the yet-to-be-fulfilled promise of His second coming.
For Christians worried about modern Christmas disconnecting them with the true meaning of Advent and its importance in Christian life, prayer will help you to distance yourself from those distractions and to open your heart to the hope and joy of Christ’s birth.