Tomorrow, November 29, marks the beginning of the season of Advent for much of the Christian world. With the holiday season in full swing in the wider popular culture, followers of Jesus have traditionally used four Sundays leading up to Christmas to prepare their hearts and minds to celebrate the birth of Jesus, as well as to anticipate with great hope His triumphant return.

The celebration of Advent goes back centuries, with Advent customs like prayer, fasting, acts of services, and special messages or sermons serving as the cornerstone of traditional observance. Advent, meaning “arrival” or “coming,” was firmly in place by the mid 7th century, though there are some indications Advent was taking shape as early as the 5th and 6th centuries.

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What does Advent look like today?

You’ve probably heard of Advent Calendars, those little decorative collection of numbered doors or windows opened each day to reveal a chocolate or little trinket. Marking each passing day in the calendar is familiar to the wider culture, even though many may not recognize its basis in anticipating Jesus’ arrival.

You may be decorating for Christmas this weekend, and that might include a nativity scene on your fireplace mantel or in your Christmas village. Through the years, some have chosen to place one character in the scene each day, finishing the scene with the placement of the baby Jesus on Christmas morning.

Whether it’s making special donations to organizations, serving at a local food kitchen, or visiting a nursing home, generosity with time and positions is a hallmark of Christian service this time of year.

Many find this to be a time of year when spending time reading the Bible or devotionals comes much more naturally. The themes and stories are more familiar, which allow many to find comfort, strength, and joy in the presence of God through the Bible. The YouVersion Bible App and Bible.com offer more than 30 devotional plans for Advent and Christmas. Here are just a few to check out:

As a church, we will be starting a new series on December 6. “Carols” will take us through some of our favorite Christmas songs as we learn the stories behind songs we’re so familiar with, think through the themes, and look to the Bible for their inspiration and focus. This time of year brings a natural opportunity to invite friends, family, and co-workers to join you at church. “Carols” will be a fun and meaningful opportunity for anyone you know to hear about the hope God offers to us through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Who can you invite today?

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