Advent calendars have come a long way since my childhood. No longer limited to versions made of cardboard and filled with cheap chocolate, these days children of all ages can count down to Christmas by opening little doors and finding goodies of all kinds, including high quality sweets, toys, jewelry and even beer.
Unfortunately, for many people, the appreciation of Advent begins and ends with the Advent calendar (just as Christmas begins and ends with Santa Claus).
This year, the season of Advent starts on Sunday, Dec. 1 and will continue until Christmas Eve. For Lutherans, and other Christians who observe the liturgical calendar, Advent is much more than a lead-up to the “most wonderful time of the year.”
Advent is understood as a season of anticipation, when we will anticipate, in memory, Christ’s arrival into the world as the baby Jesus. But we will also anticipate his promised second coming, as well as his arrival into our lives in the present.
During worship, biblical readings, hymns, sermons and prayers will reflect these themes. We will hear from important biblical characters like John the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus. We will also encounter apocalyptic texts such as Matthew 24: 36-44 in which Jesus teaches his disciples the importance of preparation and readiness for his arrival.
Such preparation is symbolized by the lighting of the Advent wreath, comprised of four candles — hope, peace, joy and love. When embraced in its full and true meaning, Advent is a richly spiritual season.