Advent: The Christian Approach To Christmas

November 29, 2002
by Anne Russell

Matthew 3:1-3 – In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" (NIV)

What is Advent? I researched the word and found that the dictionary defines the word as the arrival or coming of something or someone special, and, specifically, "a penitential season beginning four Sundays before Christmas."

I also found that the custom of lighting candles on an Advent wreath is an adaptation of an ancient practice that dates back to pre-Christian times. Candles were lighted around a wheel during the festival of the winter solstice to celebrate the return of gradually lengthening daylight.

Little did they know that a great light was coming that was greater than that of lengthening days, a light that would change the whole world.

The traditions of Advent are coming back, not only in the church but also to many homes. As Christmas approaches, many Christians are finding that Advent customs help them to focus more on what the true meaning of Christmas is. The season has become so cluttered with commercialism, shopping, parties, and giving, that the meaning of the coming of Christ is in danger of being lost.

How appropriate it is to have the Advent season, with its focus on repentance, to give balance and perspective to the glow with which we anticipate the approach of Christmas and the coming of Christ. On the first, second and fourth Sundays proceeding Christmas, the custom is to light the purple candles of repentance. The pink candle of joy is lit on the third Sunday, and on Christmas Day, we light the white candle, representing Christ. (A more recent practice is to name the four candles Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.)

In two days, it's Advent Sunday, the first day of Advent. This year, once again, let us come and repent, as we travel toward the celebration of Christmas in a true Christian way.

Prayer: Lord God almighty, Your voice calls out to us, as we approach the celebration of the birth of our Saviour, Christ, Your son. We come repenting of our sin, with joy in our hearts, not only from the anticipation of Christmas festivities, but from the way You have called us to come before You. We pray in Christ's name, who through His birth, life, and death, has now ascended to your right hand and intercedes for us. Amen.

About the author:

Anne Russell <>
Brampton, Ontario, Canada

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