Why We Observe Advent

One of our yearly traditions at Parker Hills is to observe Advent for the four Sundays leading to Christmas. Short readings, candle lightings, and a Christmas-themed sermon series are the central features of our tradition. It’s a special time, but we don’t do it just because it’s nice. There are bigger reasons.

First, it provides us with a unique opportunity to demonstrate our unity with other Christian churches all over the world and throughout history. For well over 1500 years, Christians have observed Christmas, not just on the day itself, but through a sequence of Sundays leading up to the day. The candles and greens are part of this larger tradition. The candles traditionally symbolize the light of God entering the world through the birth of Jesus; and the four outer candles are sometimes taken to represent the four centuries of waiting between the end of the Old Testament and Christ’s birth. The center candle traditionally represents Jesus, and for that reason it’s not lit until Christmas Eve. The point here is that we might not be exactly the same as other Christian churches on every particular point, but we do share a common hope and joy in the coming of the Savior!

Second, Advent reminds us of the need to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ return. As we ponder the Christmas story through our Advent readings, we’re always reminded of the many people who were so regrettably unprepared for the coming of the Messiah that night in Bethlehem, even though they knew He was going to come eventually. It’s a helpful opportunity to examine ourselves to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to us when He comes to earth the second time. Advent, then, is a season for repentance and change as much as it is a season of hope and anticipation.

And finally, it helps keep the true meaning of Christmas before us throughout the whole season. In a culture where Christmas is so heavily commercialized and secularized, it’s a welcome relief to punctuate the madness with four weekly opportunities to reflect and refocus on the real Reason for the season.

So we say, let’s join believers across town and across the centuries. Let’s prepare our hearts for the Savior’s return. And let’s rejoice that Emmanuel has come!