By Beth Richardson
10. You get to start celebrating New Year's early.
Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year for Christians. [Liturgical -- from liturgy, which means the forms and functions of public worship.] The dates of Advent vary each year, but it always contains the four Sundays before Christmas Day.
9. Christmas Procrastinators Rule!
If you observe Advent, you have a legitimate reason for putting off all sorts of things -- decorating, putting up your Christmas tree, buying presents. (Be sure to get your Mom's present, though ...) In the Christian realm, Christmas-celebrating doesn't start until Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But then you have 12 whole days of Christmas afterward! Christmas ends with Epiphany (January 6), the day when we remember the Wise Men arriving to worship the Christ child.
8. Go ahead, all the other Christians are doing it!
Well, OK, not all Christians are observing Advent. (One Christian even asked me if Advent was a Jewish holiday.) But Advent's been around since the early centuries of Christianity. In recent years, more denominations are starting to observe Advent -- kind of recapturing our history.
7. Offers an excellent alternative to decorating with red and green.
The colors of Advent are purple or blue. You may see these colors in your church vestments (the cloths on the altar or podium), in the stoles worn by your pastor or choir, in the color of the candles on the Advent wreath. These are royal colors, calling to mind the Coming of the Son of God.
6. If you LOVE candles, you'll LOVE Advent!
Lots of folks celebrate Advent by using an Advent wreath. It's often four candles on a circular wreath signifying the four weeks of Advent. A candle in the center is the Christ candle, lit on Christmas Day and Epiphany. Usually the four candles are purple or blue. If you celebrate Gaudete Sunday on the third week, that candle is pink. (Gaudete means "rejoice" in Latin.) The Christ candle is white.
5. Learn new words to impress your friends.
What more could you ask for? Advent, liturgy, Gaudete, Advent wreath, liturgical season, vestments. You rock, linguistically speaking.
4. Learn new seasonal songs.
When you celebrate Advent, you wait until Christmas to sing all those Christmas songs ("Silent Night," "Jingle Bells," "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," and other liturgical favorites). There are TONS of great Advent songs that most people don't know so well. ... Like "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming," "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus," and "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."
3. Because I wrote 2 cool Advent books.
I really wanted this to be the number one reason, but I'm working on my humility. But I DID write a couple of cool Advent books. The first one was called Child of the Light: Walking Through Advent and Christmas. The second one was The Uncluttered Heart: Making Room for God during Advent and Christmas. ...
2. Gets you in touch with Jesus' story.
The whole reason for observing the liturgical seasons is that we get to hear Jesus' entire life story every year. For those of us humans who tend to forget important things like Love and God and Christ, this is definitely a good idea. During Advent, we remember the events leading up to Jesus' birth.
1. Great remedy for pre-Christmas stress.
Advent's primary message is to wait, listen, get in touch with God, and prepare our lives and hearts for Jesus' coming. For speeded up, stressed out people (that would be most of us), this is an intriguing invitation. Observe Advent -- and get more in touch with God.
You're invited to observe Advent this year. Light the first Advent Candle -- and lower your stress -- on the first Sunday of Advent.
"Discovery Weekend changed me. I now have a better and stronger relationship with God because of it. Also, it has changed our church because people from all grades got closer together." (Discovery Weekend is an Upper Room spiritual formation experience for middle schoolers).