Advent & Christmas
What is Advent and how is it different than Christmas?
For many of us Advent and Christmas run together. Advent feels like the countdown to Christmas: a calendar with treats to build the anticipation. There’s nothing wrong with this . . . What kid doesn’t want to count down the days until Christmas morning?! But the Christian church has historically observed Advent in a different way. And we want to encourage you to be intentional as you engage the holidays.
In the early church, Advent originated as a season independent of Christmas. It was a time during the darkness of winter when Christians lamented the darkness of their lives and the world around them, and they longed for Jesus to return and make everything right again. The word Advent means “coming” and referred to the anticipation of Christ’s return.
Naturally, when Christians began to celebrate Jesus’ birth and incarnation on December 25th, Advent took on a deeper meaning. Christians could relive the hope and expectation of when Jesus was first born as a way to increase our hope today as we live in a world full of anxiety, pain, injustice, and hardship. So, while Advent anticipates and prepares our hearts for the Christmas celebration, it is less about what happened in the past and more about our longing and expectation for what God can do today.
Historically, Advent is the beginning of the church calendar year. This year, Advent begins Sunday, December 3rd and goes through Christmas Eve. Themes of Advent include longing, waiting, expectation, and hope.
Christmas is typically observed for twelve days, from December 25th through January 5th. These days are filled with celebration, joy, peace, and love.
Engaging Advent & Christmas
Advent Wreath and Candles
One way modern Christians have observed Advent is with a wreath and candles. For each of the four Sundays of Advent, a new candle is lit. The Christ candle in the center of the wreath is lit on Christmas Eve. There are many ways of doing this at home; this article provides more in-depth background and suggestions. Even if you don’t have a full wreath, you might consider lighting one candle each night at dinner as a way to remember God’s light in a dark world.
A great way for individuals, couples, or families to engage Advent is through intentional habits. Lighting a candle each night is a great start. For adults, you might also read a book of devotions, like Honest Advent by Scott Erickson or Shadow and Light: A Journey into Advent by Tsh Oxenreider. Also, Justin Whitmel Earley has put together some simple ideas for Advent habits (similar to his book The Common Rule) which you can learn about here.
For many of us, music is the soundtrack of our lives. During Advent and Christmas, we encourage you to use music to guide your reflections and celebrations. NDC has put together two playlists:
Families and Kids
For families, consider a simple yet effective activity as a way to invite your kids to participate in Advent this year. You can dowload a family-friendly Advent activity below, which also includes book resources for kids.
Two Special Services
On December 21, we will host The Longest Night service at 7pm. For some, Christmas is not a time of joy and celebration. For those who have experienced loss over the last year, this service embraces grief and lament alongside hope. Whether you’re mourning something in your personal life, mourning the brokenness in our world, or simply supporting those who are mourning, we hope you’ll consider attending this special service.
On December 24, we host our annual candlelight Christmas Eve services at 3:30 & 5pm. If you are in town, please come and invite friends! We offer NDC Kids at the 3:30 service for kids 3 and younger. Register here for that. However, both services are family-friendly for kids of any age.
Worship Service Schedule
Dec 3: 1st Sunday of Advent services at 8:30 and 10am
Dec 10: 2nd Sunday of Advent services at 8:30 and 10am
Dec 17: 3rd Sunday of Advent services at 8:30 and 10am
Dec 21: Special Longest Night service at 7pm
Dec 24: 4th Sunday of Advent & Special Christmas Eve service at 3:30 & 5pm – NDC Kids registration at 3:30 here
Dec 31: No services
Jan 7: Services resume at 8:30 and 10am