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The Meaning of Advent

Waiting for Christmas!

by Jude Scrutton (revised, originally published in 2010)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To consider the meaning of Advent and how waiting can be difficult.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need various Advent calendars, some that contain chocolate and some more traditional ones.
  • Have available the following images and the means to display them during the assembly:

    - an Advent wreath, available at:
    - an Advent wreath with a central candle, available at:
  • Optional: you may wish to have available a real Advent wreath.


  1. Discuss the saying ‘Good things come to those who wait’. Ask the children whether they understand what it means.

  2. Ask the children whether they know of any Christian celebrations about waiting for something good. Give the following clues.

    - Purple is a significant colour for this celebration.
    - We light candles during this time.
    - We also put up decorations and trees in our homes.
    - Many of us use a special calendar, and some of these calendars contain chocolate.

    By the final clue, the children should have guessed that the celebration is Advent.

  3. Ask the children, ‘Do you know what Advent means?’ Explain that the simple meaning of ‘advent’ is ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’. The period of Advent, which we measure by opening a door on our Advent calendar each day, is a time when we are waiting for something that’s coming.

  4. Ask the children what it is that’s coming. After discussion, point them to the birth of Jesus.

    In the Christian Church, Advent is marked by four Sundays, which are called the first, second, third and fourth Sundays of Advent. The first Sunday of Advent has to happen between 27 November and 3 December, so this year, it falls on 29 November. The other three Sundays of Advent in 2020 are on 6, 13 and 20 December. On each of those Sundays, Christians pray and think about the coming of the baby Jesus.

  5. Ask the children whether Advent can only be celebrated by Christians.

    Show the various Advent calendars.

    Direct the children to understand that although having an Advent calendar is a Christian tradition, people of other faiths often enjoy Christmas, too, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t also have an Advent calendar. It’s a good way to mark the passing of the days leading to Christmas.

Time for reflection

Show the image of the Advent wreath, or the real thing, if available.

Explain that, every Sunday of Advent, one of the candles in an Advent wreath is lit. (If you use an Advent wreath in school, explain when the candles will be lit there.)

Explain that some Advent wreaths have a central candle.

Show the image of the Advent wreath with a central candle.

Traditionally, the central candle is lit on Christmas Day. It signifies the arrival of Jesus, the Light of the World.

Waiting can be difficult at any time, but waiting for Christmas can be especially difficult! So, instead of just sitting there or jumping about and hoping that Christmas will come soon, we break up the waiting: there are things to do, concerts to prepare for, cards to write. And, of course, there’s the Advent calendar, which marks out the days for us, one by one.

Waiting is a part of life. Learning to deal with it is part of growing up.

Lord, we wait for the coming of Christmas with feelings of joy and excitement.
As we wait, may we remember all that we have to do along the way, and may we always remember those people for whom this is a lonely and sad time.
At this special time, please be with all those families who are waiting for a new baby, as Mary and Joseph awaited the arrival of the baby Jesus.


‘Go tell it on the mountain’, available at: (2.52 minutes long)

Any other Christmas songs. A selection of 25 popular Christmas songs is available at: (43.19 minutes long)

Extension activities

  1. There are lots of Advent activities available at:
  2. Invite the children to make up new Christmas songs using familiar music. Some instrumental versions of classic Christmas songs are available at:
Publication date: November 2020   (Vol.22 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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