What is Advent? This will be AMBrewster’s first celebration, and he looks forward to introducing Advent to other Christians who love worshipping God!
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So, originally, we were going to title this episode, “Advent | Preparing, Celebrating, Discipling,” in order to follow the approach we’ve been using on this, our first celebratory year of the Year Long Celebration of God.
But, after an hour or so of research, I had to change the direction of the entire episode. And here’s why — I did not celebrate Advent growing up . . . in fact, I think it’s fair to say that this will be my first intentional attempt to celebrate it.
Because of that, there’s a lot I needed to learn, and one of the most interesting things about Advent is that I’m not alone — most protestants don’t celebrate it. And yet this is a show whose demographic is protestants . . . so, I had to assume that many of our listeners are probably just as much in the dark about Advent as I was. Well, everyone except you reformed people. You guys have been rocking the liturgy for quite a while now. But the rest of us are still trying to catch up.
So, today we’re going to remind ourselves what liturgy is and why it should be so incredibly important to all Christians everywhere, and then we’re going to get a crash course in Advent.
Yes, we will talk about how to prepare for it and celebrate it and disciple through it, but the main focus is simply to lay a foundation so that — whether this is your first intentional advent or not — you can wisely be informed.
But before we do that, I want to ask you to rate and review the show. Lately, I’ve been watching some videos and listening to podcasts of people who I deeply respect, and I found that they have accepted a reality that I have — up until today — really struggled to get.
Here’s the thing. In our modern age of online everything, if you really believe in the work someone is doing, you will do three — if not four — things. First, you will follow them on social media. Two, you will subscribe to their free resources whether that be online articles or podcasts. Three, you will at least rate the show, and many will also review it. And the fourth thing that people who really believe in an organization, individual, or movement is going to do . . . they will financially support it.
Now, listen, I have never wanted Truth.Love.Parent. or The Celebration of God to be about me. This has never been about self-promotion, getting famous, rich, or even vaguely popular. This is simply taking the majestic and glorious, living Word of our amazing God and getting it into as many eyes and ears and minds of as many people as possible. This is about being a city set on a digital hill. This is about being salty and flavorful.
But, in today’s technological age, a ministry needs two things: First, they need their audience to follow, subscribe, like, share, review, discuss, rate, recommend, and promote. There are so many talking heads out there. There are so many people claiming to speak Truth, but there are so few people rightly dividing the Word of God. People need to be introduced to the individuals and ministries that aren’t going to lead them astray.
And that’s where passionate followers come in. People like you who are fired up about a cause are going to talk about what’s important to them.
Second, for a ministry like this to thrive, they need financial resources. Whether it be for salaries, bills, or the ability to upgrade our tech to offer more resources or reach a bigger audience, it won’t happen without money.
And I’ve always been hesitant to talk about those things because — well, for lots of reasons that I’m realizing aren’t important or Christ-honoring.
Here’s the thing. Evermind Ministries, the umbrella ministry of Truth.Love.Parent., AMBrewster, and The Celebration of God needs your help to reach people with the Truth of God’s Word.
So, with all of that said, will you please subscribe to this show so you won’t miss an episode? But don’t stop there. Will you not only follow us on social media, but will you also like and comment and share? And will you seriously, prayerfully consider how you may bless this ministry by supporting us financially.
At the moment, Truth.Love.Parent. is the ministry bankrolling The Celebration of God, so I will put a link in the description of this episode that says, “Become a TLP Friend.” That will take you to a page at TruthLoveParent.com where you can learn all about supporting this ministry. Even if you can only give one dollar a month, that’s twelve more dollars a year that we can use to get God’s Truth into the eyes, ears, and minds of people all over the globe.
And, while you’re at TruthLoveParent.com, you can easily access The Celebration of God blog so you can download today’s free episode notes and read the free transcript of the show.
God can do anything he wants all by Himself, but more often that not He uses His people to do it. So what can you do to help TLP and The Celebration of God grow?
Alright, so I’ve already admitted the fact that my family and I have never really celebrated Advent, so I’ve had to learn a lot to help all of us better understand what Advent is all about.
But first, I want to remind us what I mean when I say liturgy.
According to Merriam-Webster, “liturgy” is a “rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship.”
And they define “rite” as “a prescribed form or manner governing the words or actions for a ceremony” or “the ceremonial practices of a church or group of churches.”
And right there I’ve lost all the independent baptists because we simply don’t want to be told how to worship God. Listen . . . I get it.
I grew up as an independent, fundamental baptist, and it was our habit to separate from everything that wasn’t us . . . and then — some of us — when we ran out of people other than us from whom to separate, we started separating from each other.
By the way, I am still an independent, fundamental baptist with reformed tendencies, but The Celebration of God is not about a specific denomination. It’s about God, His Word, and how we can better know, love, and serve Him.
But, back to the separatists. I still believe in the doctrine of Separation because the Bible still talks about it.
And if you’d be interested in learning more about that doctrine, you can listen to a recent TLP episode I did called “Teach Your Children to Discern by Teaching Them to Divide,” which is all about the doctrine of separation.
But, because of extra-biblical views of separation, many protestants jettisoned the entire idea of liturgy because it was strongly embraced by Catholic and orthodox traditions which — consequently — are filled with an ark-load of error, false gospels, and lies.
But the extreme tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water has resulted in a lot of bruised children growing up into injured adults.
I believe the genuine, universal church is tragically missing out on clear biblical teachings and examples of worthwhile traditions and practices. No, I’m not saying anyone should be telling you point-for-point how to worship God if He has not clearly outlined it Himself. But there are so many benefits that come from God’s people worshipping God together at the same time for the same reasons . . . and — often — sure — in the same ways.
Now, I don’t have any more time to talk about liturgy today, but we will be revisiting it on this show often. We need to understand what it is, what it’s not, and how it glorifies God.
For now, though, please understand that liturgy is not things people have to do to become saved. It’s not a list of responsibilities Christians have to perform in order to garner favor with God. Liturgy is simply a plan, a schedule, an intentional, premeditated approach to worshipping God in corporate body-life as well as individual adoration. That’s it.
Therefore, by that definition, it’s good.
So, everything on The Year Long Celebration of God can be considered liturgy because it’s all about helping Christians intentionally give God the preeminence and — subsequently — worship that He deserves every minute of every day.
And I believe that Advent is another fantastic resource to add to our Celebration of God — our liturgy, as it were.
So . . .
1. When do we celebrate Advent?
Well, the season of Advent lasts for four weeks leading up to Christmas and ends on December 24th. If you go to CelebrationOfGod.com and click on the Advent holiday, you can see this year’s dates as well as all of the other holidays and their dates.
However, if you want to calculate it yourself, Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. If Christmas happens to fall on a Sunday, then Christmas is the fourth Sunday of that quartet.
Now, some people formally observe Advent only on the Sundays, but others celebrate it every day from the first Sunday through Christmas Eve.
Of course, as we’ve mentioned many times on this show, God does require you to worship Him every day of the year. However, you are free to do so in whatever Christ-honoring way you believe will please Him as long as it’s rooted in biblical Truth.
That means that you don’t have to technically celebrate Advent, and you don’t have to celebrate it the way anyone else does. Now, I do believe that all Christians will — at one point or another — celebrate God’s advents, but it may likely not fall during what we call the season of Advent.
Before we move to our next point, some of you may be wondering why the celebration of Advent is so long. Possibly you’ve grown up used to one-day holidays, and then the COG came along and threw a week long celebration of Creation at you and now we’re suggesting that we celebrate Advent for nearly a month — and you’ve been thrown for a wreath.
Well, it’s all very intentional. We want to give honor to those whom honor is due, and we want to put weight on things that are more significant.
In The Celebration of God we dedicate one week to Creation (which is the official start of absolutely everything — including God’s design for a relationship with man and His redemptive plan), then we dedicate 30-some days to preparing for and celebrating the coming of Christ into this world, and then we spend three months to celebrating the grandest historical event in the entire universe — the event that allows us to have a personal relationship with God — the Resurrection.
And no true follower of God will ever say, “Well, don’t you think we’re overdoing it a bit? I mean, c’mon, does God really need that much of our attention? We do have lives you know.”
No, no, no! God is life! His glory is the sum of all things. Our entire existence is simply to know Him, and love Him, and serve Him for all eternity.
There’s nothing better we can do with our time.
So, yes, from Advent through Christmas, we will be celebrating the first and second coming of Jesus Christ for over a month. Amen!
And that leads to an equally important question . . .
2. What does Advent mean?
Well, it comes from the Latin word adventus which means arrival or coming.
Now, things are going to get a little dicey as we talk about how people celebrate Advent because there are many traditions that are followed by various denominations as well as the personal preferences that get tossed in, and — of course — the commercialized traditions.
So, let me be clear, you have freedom to celebrate God during Advent however is biblically appropriate. But we, in the spirit of corporate worship, plan to put out a new plan every year. That way you don’t have to worry about planning the whole 30 days, and you get to join with Christians all over the world celebrating God in the same way. It’s fun and unifying to know we’re all doing it together.
Again, this has nothing to do with your salvation. I’m not suggesting that if you don’t do it “our way,” you’re sinning. We’re merely going to change it up from year to year so we can really appreciate the grandeur of God.
So, this year, we’re going to be focusing on both Christ’s first and second advent.
The first coming of Christ happened around year AD 0, plus or minus five years. It was prophesied all throughout the Old Testament, and though the Jews spent thousands of years looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, Christians have spent thousands of years looking back to the coming of the Messiah.
But we have a future coming to which to look forward, we have Christ’s second coming . . . also prophesied all throughout the Bible.
So, this year, Advent is a time of looking back and looking forward. Well, actually, looking forward, then looking back.
Let me explain.
3. How do people celebrate Advent?
Again, there are many, many ways. Just know that our celebration of Advent is not going to be some brand new, completely original approach. We’re going to follow other’s approaches, though we’re obviously going to make some tweaks.
Here are some of the major themes you will find in Advent celebrations.
A. Something new is celebrated every week.
While most Advent traditions involve focusing on a different element of Christ’s coming, there are many ways of doing that.
For example, some focus on the elements of Christ’s incarnation — the first Sunday they talk of the Prophets, the second Sunday they discuss the Angels, the third is about the Shepherds, and the fourth is about the Magi.
Others have themes like hope, peace, joy, and love. In fact, the themes of joy and love are incorporated into most traditions.
However, for The Celebration of God this year, we’re going to take the first two weeks of Advent to look forward to Christ’s second coming, and we’re going to devote the second two weeks of Advent to looking back to His first coming.
They’re in reverse order because the transition from anticipating His first coming and then moving right into Christmas is much smoother than looking forward to His first coming, focusing on His second coming for two weeks, and then returning to His first coming for the 12 Days of Christmas.
Another theme that is generally part of most non-commercialized Advent observations is the theme of desperation, repentance, fasting, and spiritual preparation.
Now, not everyone does this, but I believe a focus on repentance not only aids the beautiful movement and cooperation among The Celebration of God holidays, but also the much needed spiritual character trait of humility.
In Matthew 5, at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lays out the path to salvation. First, we all must first acknowledge that we are spiritually destitute. That realization should lead to a sense of grief due to our sin against a beautiful and perfect God. And that should produce in us true humility where we seek His mercy and grace because we are incapable of saving ourselves.
Only then can we be truly born again.
I believe the modern church has forgotten those first three steps. We — too often — pridefully refuse to see our sin as God does. We’re don’t grieve over our sin as we should, and we don’t run to Christ for forgiveness as we ought.
Of course, the Catholic ideas of flagellation and penance are not biblical, but they at least recognize that sin is a horrible and disgusting and wicked offense against a holy God that deserves just consequences.
So, how would Bible-believing Christians strike the balance between arrogant ignorance of our sin and the arrogant belief that we should punish ourselves for our sin?
Well, Scripture must be our guide. And I think Psalm 51 is a beautiful illustration of the heart we must have when it comes to our sin.
I won’t take time to read it now, but I will include it on our Bible reading list. The point is, Advent is the perfect transition from the Season of Mercy and our Desperation to the Season of Grace that focuses on our Glorification.
Now, I don’t want to take too much time now laying out the details of the celebratory plan, but — don’t worry — it will be clearly described in the Bible Reading PDF.
So, in addition to anticipating the comings of Christ, reflecting on our sin and God’s grace, and our new salvation focus of Glorification (which I’ll discuss more on our next episode), let’s finish up this Advent introduction by talking about the various items people commonly use to observe Advent.
B. Advent Calendars, Advent Wreaths, & Jesse Trees
Advent Calendars are familiar to most of us. If we haven’t used them, other people we know have, and we’ve probably all seen plenty of cheap, Satan-themed knock-off calendars with substandard chocolate housed behind cardboard doors.
Here’s the purpose of the Calendars. They’re designed to really focus on the waiting aspect of the season.
The whole point of Advent is to wait for and look forward to the coming Christ — not just the celebration of His past coming, but to genuinely long for His second coming.
The Calendar not only shows the slow progression of time as new doors are opened and new verses are unwrapped and new decorations are hung, but — when done well — the calendar unwraps Truth about God that will help us better know, love, and serve Him.
So, here’s the basic gist — and please understand that I’m going to describe a decidedly Christian approach to the Advent Calendar. Whether you purchase it from a store or make your own, or create some artsy variant, it must definitely include Scripture and prayer.
Yes, it can and should include chocolate, little gifts, or the like, but it really needs to include Bible. So, on our Suggest Bible reading, we’re going to give you enough verses to fill your Advent Calendar — at least one a day to step you through the entire month.
The idea is that you and/or your children, your students, your church members, your friends, or whoever, takes a minute or two from every day to open the contents, read the verse, and then spend a moment in prayer thanking the Lord, confessing sin, or praising Him. And then you get to enjoy the treat. And I do believe the treat is important because it symbolizes the sweetness of God and His Word.
In Psalm 119:103 we read, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Take that moment — every day — to remind yourself and your fellow disciplees that there is nothing sweeter or greater to be desired than God’s Word!
We’d love for you and your community to share how you approach the Advent Calendar. Just like our Facebook page and post your pictures and descriptions of what you do.
Another very common aspect of the Advent season is the lighting of candles on each of the Sundays.
Most people will light a purple candle on the first Sunday. Some people refer to it as the “Prophecy Candle” that reminds us of the prophets (namely Isaiah) who prophesied about the coming Messiah. This candle is intended to represent hope or expectation.
On the second Sunday another purple candle is lit that some call the “Bethlehem Candle.” This is meant to represent love and even symbolize the manger.
The third candle is unique in that it’s pink. Historically, the first few weeks involved a lot of fasting and repentance and the like, so this third Sunday focuses on rejoicing. It’s been said that the change in color is to draw our attention to the joyous proclamation of this “Shepherd’s Candle.”
The fourth candle is also purple and is often called the “Angels’ Candle.” This one is said to represent peace.
And then many people add a fifth white candle called the “Christ Candle” that is lit on Christmas Eve. It obviously represents the incarnation of Christ — the pure Light Who has come into the world to save men.
Now, I know that some of you are leery with all the imagery, but — please listen — there’s no reason to be. Our God is a God of imagery, symbol, metaphor, and parable. Think of the immense imagery of the tabernacle, the temple, the relationship between husband and wife, the various typology in the Old Testament, and I could keep going.
Of course, don’t forget that imagery unexplained is dangerous. Imagine my children lighting purple and pink and white candles every year without knowing why. At best they may continue the empty ceremony with no thought given to God, and at worst they may believe that lighting of the candles is vital to the salvation of their souls.
Both of those would be perilous extremes . . . into which many professing Christians have fallen over the millennia.
So, allow me to finish this point by explaining the imagery and teaching opportunities of the Jesse Tree.
In Isaiah 11:1 we read, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.”
The Jesse Tree is designed to tell the story of the Old Testament which culminates with Christ’s birth.
One such tradition adds a new ornament to the tree every day of the Advent Season. These ornaments are designed to represent biblical characters and events, but it’s incredibly important that each be explained to our disciplees so that they appreciate the sweeping narrative before them.
Here are just some of the ornaments people have used: an apple to represent Adam and Eve, a rainbow to represent Noah, a ram to illustrate Abraham offering Jacob, a coat of many colors for Joseph, tablets for the 10 Commandments, a ram’s horn for the fall of Jericho, grain to represent Ruth, a shepherd’s crook for David, a shell to picture John the Baptist, a white lily for Mary, a hammer for Joseph, Jesus’ human father, a manger, etc.
Again, there are many, many events memorialized on the Jesse Tree, some of which may be new to you. I will include a link at CelebrationofGod.com so you can glean some inspiration for your Jesse Tree — if you choose to do one.
4. How can you prepare for Advent?
If we truly want to orient our minds to God, we must spend ample time in the Bible as well as speaking to God in prayer.
Read through our suggested Bible Reading list, pray through the list.
Dedicate time this season to acknowledging and repenting of your sin. Praise God for sending His Son the first time, and wait with bated breath for Christ to return.
And don’t forget to lead your community in this act of worship. The Celebration of God is not merely a personal discipleship experience; it’s designed to be a corporate experience. God has people in your life He wants you to lead to Him and sharpen.
And lastly, you can prepare for Advent by redecorating your Celebration Wall. Next time we’re going to talk about the new winter Season of Grace, so this is the perfect time to refresh the wall and get it ready for a new focus.
One thing I have not mentioned yet is how you can take your Celebration Wall and integrate the Advent Calendar, Jesse Tree — even the candles — onto it.
I’m thinking we’re going to put a garland and white lights around the boarder of the wall. Then we can easily add ornaments or an Advent countdown or whatever else we like right onto the wall.
I look forward to seeing your Celebration Walls and unique approach to Advent on our Facebook page. Or you could send them to us via email to Team@CelebrationOfGod.com.
Thank you for your patience as I introduce Advent. I’m already looking forward to next year, unraveling and unpacking this beautiful concept.
And — don’t forget — like I mentioned at the beginning, please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets. Help us shine God’s glory to the ends of the earth.
And join us next time when we talk about our new plan to celebrate the Season of Grace.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.