Depending on your background with church and traditions, you might be familiar with the liturgical term “Advent” when referring to the Christmas season. This term is from the Latin word “adventus,” which means “arrival” or “coming.”
While traditions vary, the heart behind Advent (specifically the “first” Advent) has been mostly the same since the fourth or fifth century: To remember the birth of the Messiah (which means the Christ or the Savior-King) that was promised in Scripture for many centuries.
To be honest, Advent is a more descriptive title than our modern term, Christmas, which can be confused with a lot of other ideas from family togetherness to Santa Claus to fruit cake and “figgy pudding” (whatever that is).
Although I have been part of a church since elementary school, I had never even heard the word until I was an adult. But since then, I have grown to appreciate the layout of and meaning behind Advent.
I have discovered that focusing on Advent as an individual, a family, or a church can be helpful in refocusing us on the “true meaning” of our Christmas season. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, celebrating Advent reminds us that we are “poor and imperfect, and… look forward to something greater to come.”
He also compared the picture that Advent paints to “A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes — and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside.”
One writer explains that this season symbolizes the Church’s modern situation of prayerfully waiting for the return of Christ to consummate his eternal kingdom in the same way that the Old Testament Israelites prayerfully waited in exile for the coming of their Messiah (Acts 2:17; Hebrews 1:2).
We are looking back on Christ’s previous coming in celebration while looking ahead to his Second Coming in eager anticipation. Understanding this brings clarity to many of the Christmas songs we sing as well, such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and “Joy to the World.”
Another author describes Advent as a season of constant preparation as we reflect on the truths of Christ’s first and second comings. We remember what our Savior did for us when he died on the cross, rose again, and then promised to come again and restore everything fully.
In general, the Advent celebration tradition is to light four candles on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. These candles often represent love, joy, hope, and peace, which are four wonderful results of a relationship with Christ.
Then on Christmas Day, a fifth candle is lit that represents Jesus. Whether you light candles or not in your home or worship services, these are wonderful, biblical themes to emphasize and bring us in focus with the actual “reason for the season.”
These themes can also help guide us in our prayer life. Based on the weekly breakdown of the Advent themes, the Bible verses laid out for each day of the Advent at biblestudytools.com, and some of the wonderful suggestions in this article, the following prayers can help prepare our hearts to worship the Christ who came and will come again to save us.
Day 1 – November 29. Emphasis on the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every area of life.
Day 2 – November 30. Confidence in God’s ability to work all things together for good to those who love him.
Day 3 – December 1. Discipline to keep this life in the right perspective against the backdrop of eternity.
Day 4 – December 2. Submissiveness to the only true King, Jesus Christ, and to his eternal kingdom to come.
Day 5 – December 3. Gratefulness for what Jesus did to offer hope to this lost and dying world.
Day 6 – December 4. Awareness that one day a new heaven and earth will be under the sovereign, physical, and eternal reign of Christ.
Day 7 – December 5. Energy to live on mission to give the hope of the gospel to the world.
Day 8 - December 6. Focus on the things that are most important and worthwhile in life.
Day 9 - December 7. Knowledge of biblical truths, which ground the anxious, fearful soul.
Day 10 - December 8. Willingness to rest in God’s presence in the midst of the busyness of life.
Day 11 - December 9. Attentiveness to the still, small, comforting voice of the Holy Spirit.
Day 12 - December 10. Passion to be a peace-maker and peace-giver to others.
Day 13 - December 11. Openness to receive the Prince of Peace into the broken areas of life.
Day 14 - December 12. Readiness to love and pray for friends and neighbors as well as enemies as Jesus commanded.
Day 15 – December 13. Enthusiasm to sing songs of joy during this season and all year.
Day 16 – December 14. Imagination to create and facilitate joyful worship in the home and church.
Day 17 – December 15. Freedom from fear, guilt, and bitterness that steals joy from the soul.
Day 18 – December 16. Insight to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.
Day 19 – December 17. The remembrance that the sins of saints have been forgiven through the shed blood of Jesus.
Day 20 – December 18. Disposition of joy for believers in this world of fear, sadness, and darkness.
Day 21 – December 19. Courage to live as a bearer of the good news that brings joy to the world.
Day 22 – December 20. Understanding of the depth, width, length, and height of God’s love for sinners.
Day 23 – December 21. Willingness to lean into the loving arms of Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor.
Day 24 – December 22. Boldness to build stronger, grace-filled, loving relationships with others.
Day 25 - December 23. Sensitivity to the needs and situations of others.
Day 26 - December 24. Tenderness to sympathize with the pain of others and comfort them with God’s love.
Day 27 - December 25. Abandonment of selfishness in order to be motivated by the love of God.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/AlexRaths
Robert Hampshire is a pastor, teacher, writer, and leader. He has been married to Rebecca since 2008 and has three children, Brooklyn, Bryson, and Abram. Robert attended North Greenville University in South Carolina for his undergraduate and Liberty University in Virginia for his Masters. He has served in a variety of roles as a worship pastor, youth pastor, family pastor, and most recently as the Lead Pastor and Planter of Village Church in Churchville, Virginia. He furthers his ministry through his blog site, Faithful Thinking. His life goal is to serve God and His Church by reaching the lost with the Gospel, making devoted disciples, equipping and empowering others to go further in their faith and calling, and leading a culture of multiplication for the glory of God. Find out more about him here.