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December 1, 2023

The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming.” Here is what says about the beginnings of the Advent celebration:

Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany, the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1), his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and his first miracle at Cana (John 2:1). During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas.

By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world. The Advent season was not explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas until the Middle Ages.

As the centuries rolled on Christians developed the tradition of the advent wreath. The candles in the wreath helped believers to focus weekly on the coming of Jesus. Traditionally the four Sundays leading up to Christmas celebrate Hope, Preparation, Joy, and Love. Though, many times the word Peace is exchanged or tossed in as well. These remembrances and celebrations are to focus the heart of believers to examine one’s response to Christ’s first coming and the readiness and expectancy of his second arrival.

Sunday, December 3 marks the first week of Advent: Hope. It was about 12 years ago that my family began to celebrate Advent. In a season where we can get so distracted by concerts, parties, shopping, and list-making, we needed something that grounded us in Christ in an otherwise busy season. Over the years this has become one of our family’s favorite and most anticipated traditions (though, as the kids get older, we have struggled to find the time when we’re all home together to celebrate weekly)! My wife and I used to lead devotional thoughts each Sunday of Advent when we would light the candles. In the past few years, we have been assigning a week to each of our kids to have them study, prepare, and share a devotion with the family for each week of Advent.

The candles. The wreath. The traditions. All that is good. What would be shameful would be if all of that remembrance and celebration didn’t lead to my life changing and forming more to the heart of Jesus. Afterall, even well-intentioned traditions can become rote and lose meaning over time.

Thinking about the Hope that we have because of Jesus’s first arrival to earth, what is something new this year that you can consider and do to connect more deeply with that beautiful truth? Our God came to earth to reconcile sinners with himself. We were alienated from God because of our sin. Now, we have eternal intimacy with him through Jesus! So, what new focus, tradition, act, or habit can you give yourself to this Christmas season that will bend your heart toward this remembrance? What new way can you connect with God’s heart in this busy season? Try something new. Do something out-of-the-ordinary. Give a gift to a person/s that you normally wouldn’t give to. Invite people to share a meal with you. Give generously to a ministry that you might usually overlook. Volunteer in a place that moves you out of your comfort zone. Commit to daily reading, meditation, and prayer during Advent.

Advent isn’t just about remembering or anticipating. The earliest Christians used advent to prepare and enrich their own hearts for a deeper commitment to the heart of Christ. They were moving toward a bold step of faith. Join them in the centuries-long tradition of celebrating our Savior!

I love the words of the 18th century scholar and hymn-writer Charles Wesley:

Come, Thou long expected Jesus Born to set Thy people free; From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee. Israel's strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art; Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.

Celebrating His coming,


Nathan Hinkle

Lead Pastor

White Oak Christian Church


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