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, November 28th 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.

Worship Service Schedule

Nov 28: 1st Sunday of Advent services at 8:30 and 10am
Dec 5: 2nd Sunday of Advent services at 8:30 and 10am
Dec 12: 3rd Sunday of Advent services at 8:30 and 10am
Dec 19: 4th Sunday of Advent services at 8:30 and 10am
Dec 21: Special Longest Night service at 7pm to mourn and grieve a difficult year and for when Christmas is a difficult time
Dec 24: Special Christmas Eve service at 5pm
Dec 26: No services
Jan 2: Resume services at 8:30 and 10am

Advent Reflection Questions

Week One (Nov 28-Dec 4)

After listening to this week’s sermon, take a few minutes to reflect on the following questions:

1. What words or images come to your mind when you think about who Jesus is?

  • Do you see Jesus primarily as a teacher, friend, coach/mentor, counselor, father, judge, law enforcement officer, Santa Claus-type figure, or something else?
  • How might your images of Jesus be helpful, and how might they be limiting?

2. Advent is about waiting and anticipating the day when Jesus will return and make all things new. What is one area in your life where you’re longing to see God’s restoration or renewal?

  • Is there a way you are weary (physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally) and are longing for God to heal, move, intervene, speak into, etc.?
  • Where do you see injustice in the world and are longing for God to make it right?

3. Where can you identify God’s faithfulness in the past?

  • How does that help you have hope for the future?
  • Is there a situation in your life where you do not have all the answers, but you need to trust God (like Mary did!) with the glimpse He’s given you?

Week Two (Dec 5-11)

After listening to this week’s sermon, take a few minutes to reflect on the following questions:

1. The primary purpose of a prophet is to be a messenger of God’s word to people’s ears. What message might Jesus want to proclaim to you today that you need to pay attention to?

2. Where have you ignored the “angry” aspects of Jesus or the tough parts of his message of repentance?

3. How is seeing Jesus as Prophet good news to you in this season of Advent?

Week Three (Dec 12-18)

After listening to this week’s sermon, take a few minutes to reflect on the following questions:

1. Jesus’ relationships revealed a lot about him. Think about your relationships and what they might reveal about you:

  • What are your friends like? What characteristics or qualities do they have, and what does this reveal about you?
  • Who do you regularly conflict with? What characteristics or qualities do they have that create conflict, and what does this reveal about you?

2. If Jesus perfectly represents God’s character, what does his association with outcasts and his conflicts with the religious leaders of his day reveal about God?

3. In light of what Jesus has done for us, the writer of Hebrews exhorts us to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess” and “consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds.” What are some practical ways you could do these things? What habits or practices might help you do so more regularly?

Week Four (Dec 19-24)

After listening to this week’s sermon, take a few minutes to reflect on the following questions:

Is Jesus your king? 

  • Do you see yourself as a servant of King Jesus? Is your life oriented around his heart, his values, his ways, his desires?
    • Do you know God’s heart, values, ways, and desires? Or do you need to take the time to study Scripture more so you can get to know Him better?
  • Where are you still trying to be your own king? What aspects of your life might you be holding back that God desires for you to surrender to Him?