Understanding Advent: A Time of Preparation and Anticipation

December 11, 2023

Understanding Advent: A Time of Preparation and Anticipation

Advent is the period of time leading up to Christmas. The term "Advent" is derived from the Latin word "adventus," which means “coming” or “arrival.” Traditionally, it's a season of spiritual journeying that invites us to pause, reflect, and prepare our hearts in joyful anticipation of Jesus’ birth.


While there is no record of Jesus’ actual date of birth, celebrating Christmas on December 25th has endured. There are many theories for why this date was embraced by the church. Some attribute the decision to early Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus, who dated Jesus’ conception and crucifixion to have both occurred on March 25th and his birth, subsequently, to be nine months later on what we now celebrate as Christmas. While the actual dates of these important events may never be known, the nine month period between Good Friday and Christmas seems to be a fitting season of reflection as we await the coming of our Saviour, just as the pregnant Mary did two thousand years ago.


The time of preparation during Advent is embraced throughout the Christian church. Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and continues to Christmas Eve. This year, we started our Advent journey on the December 2nd/3rd weekend. Each Sunday a candle on the Advent Wreath, a circular garland of evergreen branches representing eternal life, is lit, and on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day we light the final candle. The first four candles successively symbolize hope, peace, joy, and love. The fifth candle is known as the Christ candle and represents the birth of Jesus.

Some Christians also commemorate Advent with an Advent Calendar, which is used to count down the days from December 1st to the 25th. Most Advent Calendars have small doors to open each day, revealing a verse, part of the Nativity story, or a small gift. The Advent Calendar is a fun, interactive way to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus, and to remind us of the great gift God has given humanity through the birth of His Son.

Here at Sherwood Park Alliance Church, we believe that the Christian journey is meant to be lived in community. We hope that you’ll join us in celebrating Advent together. We invite you to join us for our weekend services as we reflect on the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love in anticipation of Jesus’ birth. We also encourage you to extend the warmth of the Advent season beyond the weekend through prayer, scripture reading, and acts of kindness.

The birth of Jesus is the beginning of God’s salvation plan for humanity. In Christmas we see the beginning of the final chapter, the culmination of the story in which God’s eternal power and love takes the form of a baby lying in a manger. As you prepare for Christmas this Advent, reflect on the truth that Jesus came for the world, but that He also came for you.


Christmas at SPAC: We would love to have you join us at our special Christmas Eve services and 4th day of Advent. Visit SPAC.ca/Christmas for more information!