Advent has always been a struggle for me.
I knew the basics. It’s essentially the Sundays in the month of December. There’s candle lighting involved. You’ve got the wreath. Maybe you sing a couple Christmas songs in church. Really, the extent of what I thought about Advent was that it’s pre-Christmas.
I never felt much need to go deeper until I stepped into my worship role here at Central and realized how much I was missing out on and how uninformed I was. The more I’ve looked into and studied the season of Advent, the more excited I am to lead our contemporary worship services through this time.
An Advent Primer
Advent is the season of the church calendar marked by the four Sundays preceding Christmas. In many ways, it signifies the beginning and, in a way, the end of the church year. It is a season filled with anticipation, expectation, preparation, and longing.
The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival”. When we focus in on this season, we wait and prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in his First Advent. We also look forward with eager anticipation for the day that Jesus Christ returns in final victory as all of creation is reconciled to God and made new in Him (See Matthew 13:24-27, Revelation 21:5).
“Advent reminds us of a certain event, a day on the horizon of the future which will reorder every last molecule of the universe.” — J.D. Walt
With the season of Advent’s double focus on past and future, we find ourselves as people in the middle. During this time, we affirm that Christ has come, that he is present with us today through the Holy Spirit, and that He will come again.
Drew Causey, in an excellent blog series entitled Advent Rookies, puts it perfectly.
“Advent longs for Jesus to complete what begins in Bethlehem.”
How Do We Worship During Advent?
Traditionally, Advent has been a penitent time of reflection and fasting in the church. As we look forward and prepare, we quickly realize there are parts of our lives that do not measure up. We find ourselves holding on a little too tightly to the things of the world and not trusting in the future of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. According to Causey, “The key to Advent is purposely disrupting our everyday rhythms as an attempt to make room for the advent of Jesus into our everyday lives.” Walt emphasizes the same point, “Advent lifts our hearts to a future of unparalleled possibility and beckons us to awaken from he predictable certainty that our lives have become.”
And so, during this time we wait, hope, and prepare for the future that Jesus Christ has for us. We trust in the promise God delivered through the prophet Isaiah:
Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. (Isaiah 64:4 NIV)
Let’s hand ourselves over to God, asking Him to shape and mold us during this time. We submit to him that “we are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8 NIV).
Some Practical Ideas
- Set aside daily time for Bible reading and prayer. The YouVersion Bible App has some great Advent reading plans like this one. Or J.D. Walt at Seedbed Publishing has put together an incredible Advent reader titled Not Yet Christmas: It’s Time for Advent.
- Consider fasting one meal per week. Fasting has been a traditional part of Advent worship throughout church history. Fasting calls us to look to Jesus. Pick one meal each week to fast, and spend that time in prayer.
- Get Involved. As we look forward to return of Jesus, let’s spend our time preparing ourselves and those around us. Choose to serve somewhere as a family. Replace part of your Christmas spending with giving. Seek out the hurting and touch them with the love of Jesus.
- Attend Worship. We’ll be walking through this season together. Come be a part of the community as we wait with eager anticipation the birth of Jesus and his final return.
Jesus, be near to us this Advent season. Help us to break the rhythms of our everyday life and resist the consumeristic culture that this season has come to be known for. “Stir in our hearts a holy anticipation for the world to come, and an undying urgency for the world that is passing away,” (Walt). Come, Holy Spirit, dwell in our midst. Mold us. Shape us. Transform us.
Contemporary Worship Director