(Note: Anglican Compass has a book about Advent! Check out A Thrill of Hope: Celebrating Advent at Home (Revised and Expanded for 2020, by Ashley Wallace!)
What is Advent?
Advent is the first season of the Church year. It lasts for four weeks leading up to Christmas Day on December 25:
(To learn more about what the Church year is and how it’s different than the civil calendar, click here.)
Why is it called “Advent”?
“Advent” comes from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming or arrival.”
Used by the Church, the word refers to:
- The “arrival” of Jesus Christ when he was born on the original Christmas Day
- The upcoming “arrival” of Jesus Christ when, as Christians believe, he will return to judge the living and the dead.
So, the season of Advent is a season of preparation and waiting:
- first for Christ’s second coming to judge the living and the dead (2 Pet 3:11-14; 1 John 3:2-3), but also
- to celebrate Christ’s first arrival at Christmas.
Just as the Israelites awaited a Messiah to fulfill God’s promises from Genesis 3:15 to Jeremiah 31:31-34 and beyond, so Christians await the return of Jesus the Messiah to make all things new (Revelation 21).
How do you celebrate Advent? What are some common practices during Advent?
Check out our Advent book, A Thrill of Hope: Celebrating Advent at Home (Revised and Expanded for 2020), by Ashley Wallace, for more ideas about how to observe Advent with friends and family!
- Keep an Advent calendar
- Light an Advent wreath
- Do the Daily Office with our easy-to-use Daily Office Booklet!
- Check out Teach Us to Pray: Scripture-Centered Family Worship through the Year, an excellent book, with a free PDF download of the Advent chapter if you click that link.
What’s the difference between Advent music and Christmas music?
Perhaps the classic piece of Advent music is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” because it reflects Advent’s emphasis on waiting and expectation.
Christmas music, on the other hand, emphasizes the joyful celebration of Christ’s arrival at the Incarnation. “Joy to the World” comes to mind, but if you read the lyrics to that song closely, you’ll notice that they’re actually about the second coming of Jesus, not his birth.
So, maybe think of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” as a paradigmatic Christmas song.
Songs for Advent
Here are some of the better-known songs from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship’s helpful list of Songs for Advent:
- Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus – Charles Wesley
- Hark, the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes – Philip Doddridge
- Imagine – Keith and Kristyn Getty
- Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence – Gerard Moultrie
- Love Divine, All Loves Excelling – Charles Wesley
- My Soul Cries Out with a Joyful Shout – Rory Cooney
- O Come, O Come, Emmanuel – ancient hymn
- Of the Father’s Love Begotten – Aurelius Clemens Prudentius
- Savior of the Nations, Come – Ambrose, 4th century; Martin Luther
- Soon and Very Soon – Andraé Crouch
(Check out the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship’s list of Songs for Christmas as well.)
I also highly recommend the following music.
- Advent with Sacred Ordinary Days on Spotify (embedded above)
- Advent, Vol. 1. by The Brilliance on Spotify
- A Light by The Liturgists on Spotify
- Advent to Christmas by Page CXVI on Spotify
- “Advent at Ephesus,” by the Benedictines of Mary
- This Advent playlist, put together by Fr. Peter Smith for his church, Living Faith Anglican Church in Tempe, AZ
- It blends Advent and Christmas themes together, but The Oh Hellos’ Family Christmas Album by The Oh Hellos on Spotify is one of my favorite Advent/Christmas albums of all time.
Advent Collects and Collect Reflections
In the Anglican tradition, each week of the Church year has a special prayer, called a “collect,” used during Sunday worship and then for the following week.
Here are the collects for Advent. If you click on the titles, it will take you to the Anglican Compass Collect Reflection for that week—a short blog post to help you reflect on the collect!
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and the comfort of your holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O Lord Jesus Christ, you sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise make ready your way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient toward the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world, we may be found a people acceptable in your sight; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and as we are sorely hindered by our sins from running the race that is set before us, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
Other Advent posts at Anglican Compass
If you’d like to learn more about Advent, check out the following posts right here at Anglican Compass:
- Why You Should Follow the Church Calendar with Your Family at Home This Advent
- My Top 4 Favorite Advent Traditions
- What is Advent?
- What They Are Saying About Advent
- Observing Advent as a Family
- The War on Advent
- Advent: John the Baptist and Me (Part 1)
- Advent: Prepare the Way (Part 2)
- Themes of Advent
- Try These 3 “Las Posadas” Recipes This Advent!
(Click here to view all of our posts that have been tagged as “Advent.”)
Other Advent resources
Read our Advent book, A Thrill of Hope: Celebrating Advent at Home (Revised and Expanded for 2020), by Ashley Wallace!
Check out the following external resources to learn more about Advent and how to celebrate it:
- The good folks over at The Homely Hours have put together some excellent Advent resources, including this great list of suggested practices for Advent this year.
- Check out this Advent Resource Guide from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
- The Advent Project | Biola University Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts
- Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional, by Paul David Tripp
- Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ, by Fleming Rutledge
- Good Dirt: Advent, Christmastide & Epiphany (Volume 1)
- Books and Music for Advent and Christmastide (Renovaré)
- Advent – Wikipedia
Did I leave anything out?
If there’s something I didn’t mention that you think should be in this introduction/guide to Advent, please let me know in the comments below!
As Managing Editor, Josh is in charge of the day-to-day operations at Anglican Compass. He is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America, serving at Church of the Savior in Wheaton, IL (Diocese of C4SO). Josh is also a Ph.D. Candidate in theology at Wheaton College Graduate School. You can follow Josh on micro.blog, or learn more at joshuapsteele.com.