Embracing Advent and Christmastide
Sunday, December 2, marks the beginning of Advent. Advent is a four-week season of waiting, anticipating, and preparing for Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Most of us have heard of Advent but did not grow up in families or churches that marked Advent in any significant way and so we typically think of Advent and Christmas as synonymous seasons. As such, we have missed out on the full season of Christmas, traditionally called Christmastide or The Twelve-Days of Christmas, which goes from December 25th through January 5th. Historically, the church has embraced these two unique and complementary seasons.
What Is Advent?
Advent has been marked as a season of ascending light, which Cities Church has represented through our gatherings growing brighter and brighter with the addition of more light and decorations each week of Advent leading up to Christmas. The songs of Advent are songs of longing and yearning like O Come, O Come Emmanuel and Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. The goal of Advent is to train our affections to long for Jesus’s second coming in a similar way to how Israel longed for Jesus’s first coming, which is why we use the call and response at the start of our service, “Christ has come. Christ will come again.”
What Is Christmastide?
Christmastide on the other hand is a season of celebration, feasting, and rejoicing in God’s continued faithfulness to his people. Because Jesus, the Promised One, has come, we can be certain he will return for us. The church has marked the joy of the Christmastide season by singing songs like Joy to the World and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing! and holding services that are bright, merry, and evangelistic. We celebrate Christmastide at Cities Church by leaving all of our Advent decor up and enthusiastically singing Christmas anthems through the Twelve-Days of Christmas following December 25.
Advent Devotional Guide for Home
As a church, we think that the distinction between Advent and Christmastide is significant for discipleship, which is why we mark these two seasons in our services. In the modern conflation of Advent and Christmas, driven by our economy, the church has lost out on the shared experience of waiting and yearning together for Jesus. Not only that, but the formative power of Advent and Christmastide doesn’t stop at our Sunday services. My hope is that as our church embraces Advent and Christmastide corporately, you also would embrace these two seasons in your own habits, practices, and traditions.
To help you, this Sunday we are providing a devotional guide for Advent created by our friends at The Village Church in Texas (available here [PDF] or in booklet form this Sunday). The guide includes a reading plan, passages for meditation and memorization, an Advent song, a devotional, questions for reflection, and a prayer for each week of the four weeks of Advent. I encourage you to work through the Advent booklet with your families or roommates and, as you go through it, to think of other ways you can be intentional to mark the seasons of Advent and Christmastide. Here are a few ideas toward that end.