The Meaning of Advent
Advent: the season of preparation
by Tim and Vicky Scott (revised, originally published in 2009)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the Christian season of Advent.
Preparation and materials
- You will need an Advent calendar. If it contains chocolates, you may wish to give these out towards the end of the assembly as rewards for those who can answer questions about the meaning of Advent.
- It is also helpful if you have a traditional Advent calendar without chocolates that shows a Nativity scene on the front. If this is not available, you could use an image of the Nativity instead, in which case you will also need the means to display it. An image is available at: https://tinyurl.com/y5eldpv3
- This year, the first Sunday of Advent falls on 29 November.
Advent Sunday occurs on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. In the Western Christian tradition, it marks the beginning of the Church year.
- The word ‘advent’ comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’.
In the Christian calendar, Advent marks the approach to Christmas: the coming of Jesus Christ to Earth 2,000 years ago as a baby in Bethlehem. This is known as the First Advent.
However, Christians believe that the season of Advent also looks forward to the return of Christ in his Second Advent, in the future. So, Advent is not just about marking a historic event, it is also a celebration of God’s revelation of himself through Jesus, the coming King. The period of Advent lasts until midnight on Christmas Eve.
- Christians believe that they are living between the First Advent and the Second Advent. During the season of Advent, as Christians focus on both the past and the future, they affirm that Jesus entered our history 2,000 years ago, and they believe that he will come again, to bring justice, universal peace and righteousness.
- Traditionally, Advent was a time for fasting, when believers cut back on eating and drinking, prayed more and thought about the coming of Jesus as a baby. Doing this meant that, by the time people got to Christmas, they probably enjoyed the festivities even more. However, few people fast during Advent nowadays. Instead, most of us do all our Christmas partying during Advent itself, rather than in the 12 days after Christmas, as was the tradition.
- The beginning of Advent is often the time when preparations for Christmas really begin – presents are chosen and wrapped, Christmas cards are written and posted to family and friends, houses are decorated, often with lights and a Nativity set, and carols are sung.
- Show the Advent calendars (and the image of a traditional Nativity, if using).
Advent calendars normally start on 1 December and have 24 windows. They provide a way of counting down the days to Christmas, often including a chocolate, too. (You may wish to ask some ‘Christmas questions’ and hand out the Advent chocolates as prizes.)
Time for reflection
Advent is a time of waiting and preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth as a human being. Despite Jesus’ humble birth, Christians believe that his arrival on Earth changed the world forever.
Think about the changes that you would like to see to bring justice and peace to the world. How can you help to bring about those changes?
What do you like about Christmas? How can you help make this Christmas a time of joy and peace for others?
Any Christmas music.