What is Advent and why is it important? Why is Advent something that we need to observe as a church community?
Like most of you who grew up with a Pinoy Christmas, this season always gave me a sense of expectation as a child and as a teenager. But the reasons I look forward to Christmas have changed over the years.
As a child, I looked forward to the gifts, the food, and the fun time with my sisters and neighbors. Our school Christmas party signalled the end of the quarter, and that meant three weeks of break from studies.
As a teenager, I looked forward to the same things and more: going to malls with friends, seeing my crush every day at Simbang Gabi, and completing the nine days of Christmas mass so my wish for the year can come true.
But when I became a follower of Jesus Christ, our pastor invited me and a handful of other students to their home to celebrate the Advent. It had all the elements of the things I enjoyed in a Christmas party—fun, food, and fellowship—except we had time for worship, sharing of the word, and reflection that encouraged us to fix our eyes on Christ, what His coming as a baby meant for the world, and how it fuels joy, peace, and hope in the midst of any circumstance.
That experience profoundly changed the way I viewed Christmas. Instead of it just being a season to enjoy gifts, food, and the company of family and friends, I fixed my eyes on Jesus Christ and why we celebrate Christmas:
We remember God’s faithfulness to fulfill His promise. Christmas is a reminder that no matter how long it takes for God to fulfill His promise, He will do so. During Advent, we remember that our life on earth may be short, but God’s plans fall into place, even when we don’t get to see them come to pass in our lifetime.
We anticipate the fulfillment of His promise to return and make things new. God’s proven faithfulness strengthens our faith and our hope for His second Advent—which means “coming”—when He will make all things new and wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 7:15–17). We look forward to heaven and earth becoming one to worship the King for eternity.
I encourage you, dear Christian leader, to prepare yourself and the people you lead for Christmas differently from the rest of the world. Make Advent a time of remembrance and anticipation of the coming of our Lord and our Savior, the only one worthy of our worship and devotion.
Here are some suggestions on how you can do Advent with people you lead:
1.Daily devotion. Leading up to Christmas, when you are on break from meeting together as a small group, you can go through a devotional together. The YouVersion Bible app has several devotional studies that focus on Advent. They design these studies to be done individually and yet make some of our reflections shareable to a group. Not only does this activity help us focus on the reason for Christmas, it also helps those who are building the habit of spending time with God.
You can also do a daily challenge together that helps you remember all the things you are grateful to God for leading up to Christmas. Victory Fort has a 25-day gratitude challenge that allows you to share and reflect on blessings, big or small, that remind you of God’s faithfulness.
2.Weekly fellowship. Shift your small group meetings to Advent celebrations starting four weeks before Christmas. It can be a time to worship where you can sing and reflect on meaningful Christmas hymns. Some that come to mind are “O Come, O Come Emmanuel!,” “Silent Night,” “O Holy Night!,” “Away in a Manger,” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”
You can share about how the birth of Jesus Christ redefined peace, hope, joy, and love. The Bible Project has a good material that covers four weeks. In this way, we have fun and fellowship together as friends, yet we are able to collectively fix our eyes on Jesus Christ and not on each other.
Advent is a beautiful time to reflect on God’s faithfulness two thousand years ago. It reminds us that He continues to be faithful and sovereign today. Let’s not miss this opportunity to open the eyes of those we lead to the importance of this faith-building activity.