Advent is for evangelicals! Celebrating Advent has not been high on the priority list for most evangelical church members, but it should be. The emphasis of the Christmas/Advent season is Jesus – His first coming and His second coming. Isn’t He the central figure for Bible-believing evangelicals? Aren’t we followers of Jesus Christ?
J.B. Phillips said, “By far the most important and significant event in the whole course of human history will be celebrated, with or without understanding, at the end of this season, Advent. … Even by the believer, the full weight of the event is not always appreciated.”
In previous December editorials, I shared that I did not grow up in a church that recognized the Advent season. Churches that hold to a more liturgical tradition have typically given attention to this annual celebration.
More than 38 years ago, I received a gift from an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary couple serving in Germany. I was the pastor of their home church at the time. Warner and Roberta Bumgardner sent a very decorative, German Advent calendar to our family. I had heard of Advent but always brushed it aside as a “non-evangelical” celebration. I learned it is a very popular tradition in Germany – the homeland of my great, great grandfather – and in many other parts of the world.
I began a multi-year study of the history of the Advent tradition. The Internet was not available in those days, so basic, old-fashioned footwork was my method of research. The more I studied, the more I wondered why evangelicals were not receptive to all of the rich meaning and pure joy of Advent celebrations.
The word “advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” The traditional celebration of Advent points to the first coming of Jesus to this world, focusing on every ancient Jewish worshiper’s anticipation of Messiah’s coming and the fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promise of a Messiah for His people.
Our family began a tradition of our own. I prepared a dogwood log, drilling one candle hole for each day of Advent. We placed it in a prominent spot in our den and reserved time each day to read an Advent devotion together and light a candle, lighting one new candle every day until all were filling the room with light. Oh yes, another important part of the celebration was enjoying Christmas treats, including hot chocolate or hot apple cider.
I shared this family tradition in every church where I served since then. Many families adopted the tradition and customized it for the unique interests and needs in their home. The overwhelming response from hundreds of families confirmed the value of Advent for evangelicals.
Don’t overlook the usefulness of Advent as an open door to share the gospel. Some of your neighbors see Advent as a neutral holiday celebration. Some celebrate it from religious tradition but are clueless as to its rich meaning. We know better.
So talk to your friends who celebrate Advent and ask them why they observe this tradition. Invite them into your home to participate in your family’s Advent celebration, ensuring they see the Savior at the center of your family’s Advent devotion.
This is a time for every Christian to keep a daily focus on Jesus in the middle of a season that usually draws our attention to material items and man-centered celebrations. As we relive the unbridled anticipation of the Jews, the value of the Savior’s birth comes alive. But we know that His first birth is not the end of the story. While Advent celebrates the birth of Jesus, it points beyond Christmas to remind us that He is coming again!
To assist you with your Advent celebration, the Biblical Recorder has a special web page that explains more about the season and provides resources to help you get started or continue to grow in your appreciation of Advent. Visit Brnow.org/Advent.
For this year’s Advent, I am reading Watch for the Light, Readings for Advent and Christmas. The chapters were written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis, Phillips, C.F. Blumhardt and many others.
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