A Note from the Editor:
As we approach a Christmas season made unique by COVID-19 restrictions, our need to encounter God and enjoy His presence has never been greater. Though social gatherings with friends may be ill-advised or illegal, taking time to worship God for the coming of Christ can still fill our homes with the warmth of fellowship and the light of Heaven. This year, I wanted to share an Advent series written by my friend and seminary classmate Stephen Posey. While he wrote this series for his church in Oklahoma, Church on the Move, as I read it, I knew it would be a tremendous encouragement for my Calvary Chapel/CGN family as well. Stephen is a gifted pastor and theologian and a wonderful brother in Christ. The series he wrote for Advent is full of truth, love, and a call to wonder and worship. Just reading through and meditating on the scripture and songs has been profoundly refreshing and encouraging to me. I pray it is encouraging to you, your families, your churches, and anyone you share it with who might need a little encouragement to slow life down and sing, pray, and meditate on the wonder of the Advent of Christ Jesus, our Lord.
We will be publishing a weekly installment of this Advent series each Monday for the next four weeks, culminating in a final installment for Christmas Eve. Some areas of the world allow small gatherings of family and friends; other places are restricted to members of your household only. These weekly guides may need to be adapted to online Zoom meetings or FaceTime calls, as your area allows. Each guide will include interactive scripture readings, moments of reflection, time for prayer, songs of worship to sing together, candle lighting, and an opportunity to journal your experience. This initial installment offers explanations and instructions, with the hope of setting your expectations, as well as all those whom you might invite to participate.
I pray these are an encouragement to you, even if your local restrictions preclude you from hosting an in-home or in-church gathering. I pray the warmth and hope of the arrival of the Christ-child fill your hearts, homes, and communities as we eagerly await His Second Advent. God bless you, and Merry Christmas.
George Scanlan, Content Manager
THE HISTORY OF ADVENT
Christmas has long since gone commercial, hasn’t it? When many people think of Advent, they think of plucking chocolates from behind the window of an Advent calendar that counts down the days to Christmas. We have the brilliant holiday marketing minds at Cadbury to thank for that. They created the first chocolate Advent calendar in 1958.
The word advent actually comes from the Latin adventus, which simply means “arrival.” Advent is the coming, the arrival, of the presence of God Himself—God with us. For hundreds of years, followers of Jesus from a wide variety of church traditions around the world have set aside the four weeks leading up to Christmas as a meaningful season of celebration and anticipation. That’s what we’re up to here.
In celebration, we remember the earnest expectations and fervent prayers of faithful saints of old who longed for the coming of their Messiah to rescue them from Sin and all its cronies. Humanity called upon the name of the Lord, and God answered. He arrived living and breathing and walking among us. Advent is a way to experience their joy as we put their ancient, Spirit-inspired words on our lips as a community.
So Advent is something that really happened, but Advent will happen again. Jesus is coming back. At His first coming, the future kingdom of God burst into the present with Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Our spiritual enemies were disarmed. Yet our world is not what it will be as we await the reign of our good king. We live in the “already but not yet” of Jesus’ kingdom. At Advent, we give voice to “kingdom come” prayers of our own, looking expectantly for Jesus’ return. In that way, this is a season of both celebration and anticipation.
For Christians, Christmas is less sentimental than we think. Advent allows us
to be honest about what’s wrong with our world and to freely celebrate Christmas as good news—King Jesus has come; King Jesus will come again!
Beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, each of the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas Eve will focus on a different theme of celebration and anticipation—hope, peace, joy, and love.
Jesus said, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). Encountering God is not only possible this Christmas season, Jesus said it’s a matter of opening the door. Will you let Him into your home? He’s waiting.
If the whole idea of celebrating Advent is new to you, you’re in good hands. This book will guide you through weekly Advent Gatherings and a series of Advent Candle-Lighting Liturgies to do together with your family and friends. In addition, we’ll offer resources for how to create space to encounter God daily and make the most of this season with the people you love.
This Christmas season we want you to consider connecting with a few friends or family members once a week (Sunday evenings if you can) to enjoy community and encounter God together.
There’s a pattern you may have noticed most people tend to fall into during the Christmas season. We spend more, consume more, eat more, and do more in December than any other month of the year. For this reason, Christmas can be one of the least emotionally healthy seasons of the year. We believe it doesn’t have to be. In fact, we’re inviting you to resist that pattern. As the famous Christmas carol proclaims, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” Make room for these Advent Gatherings. You won’t regret it.
This Advent guide will walk you through how to prepare for your gathering, and it will give you step-by-step directions for how to participate in each Advent Candle-Lighting Liturgy in your home (liturgy is just a word for a thoughtful order of worship). The Advent Candle-Lighting Liturgy itself will take 10–15 minutes. The duration of the rest of the gathering is up to you.
We’ve included a Weekly Advent Journal as a space for you to jot down your reflections on what happened at each gathering (as a host or a guest). You might write about a good memory you were reminded of, something funny someone said, or an expression of how you felt. Mostly, though, this is a place to preserve what you sensed God was speaking to you.
We’ve also included something we’re calling Daily Advent. This is a set of simple practices designed to help you see the choose-your-own-adventure expressions of worship to God available in everyday life.
Daily Advent practices are a way to protect yourself from the unintentional consequences of the modern pace of life. In his book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer defines daily worship practices as “a schedule and set of practices to order your life around the way of Jesus in community. (They are) a way to keep from getting sucked into the hurry, busyness, noise, and distraction of regular life. A way to slow down. A way to live into what really matters... key relationships with family and community... a healthy soul. You know, the good stuff.”
Here is what you’ll need for Weekly Gatherings & Candle-Lighting Liturgies:
FRIENDS OR FAMILY
- Friends don’t let friends do Advent alone.
- If you’re able to meet in person, we recommend it. If not, gathering via video call works too.
If a more festive approach suits you, here’s what you’ll need:
- Advent wreath, your choice of greenery
- A candelabra/candleholders
- Three purple candles (Hope, Peace, and Joy—Weeks 1–3)
- One pink candle (Love—Week 4)
- One larger white candle at the center (Christmas Eve)
- Any candles will do
- Add one candle each week leading up to Christmas Eve
Find a Host
- You might offer to host or share the honor of hosting with others.
- Plan to share a meal together.
- Make it as simple or as extravagant as you like; the point is to be together in celebration and anticipation.
- Play music.
- We have created an Advent Spotify Playlist for you (search “COTM Advent”).
- Prepare an activity for the kids.