Advent invites us to slow down, to prepare, to anticipate one of the most holy days in the church calendar. I have known this for years and our family has many traditions to honor this season of love and giving. The advent calendar and activities surrounding them have not been a part of our tradition. Advent calendars were not something I was exposed to in my childhood, so it did not become a part of the traditions we incorporated into our family.
Recently, one of my kiddos wanted an advent calendar of their very own and I took notice. After a quick online search, I discovered that on one site alone there are sixty-two different advent calendars. Sixty-two. Calendars that include the traditional chocolate, but also Lego, wine, hot sauce, make-up, pet food (because your pets definitely need to participate), hot wheels and more.
Clearly, either I am missing out, missing the point, or am seeing a super-sized commercialization of the season.
At the risk of being a scrooge or at the very least a skeptical newbie on the advent calendar scene I must ask, “Why so many?” This question led me to a second online search for the history and true intention behind the advent calendar.
“While many outside the Christian tradition enjoy their yearly countdown calendar (and its hidden treats), the meaning behind the Advent calendar remains steeped in religious themes. More than just a countdown, marking the days of Advent serves as a time of spiritual reflection and preparation. Advent is a season of waiting, calling to mind the longing and anticipation of God’s people who, for centuries, awaited the coming Messiah.
Counting down the days of Advent can help us consider what it must have been like waiting for the promised Messiah, generation after generation. It gives us an opportunity to lament the reason we needed a savior to come in the first place—our sin—and also to remember God’s past faithfulness to us. On this side of the cross, we know that Israel’s long season of expectation culminated in the birth of Jesus Christ. Likewise, our yearly season of Advent culminates in the celebration of Christmas; but first we walk through a season in which we prepare for the feast.
In addition to commemorating God’s faithfulness in the past, keeping Advent also helps us look ahead with hopeful anticipation. Advent puts us in the habit of watching and waiting, which is a helpful practice because Christians still live in a state of anticipation: We are waiting for Christ’s return. By looking back at His first Advent, we prepare ourselves to live in joyful expectation of His second Advent. By keeping these themes in mind, something as simple as an Advent calendar can help ready our hearts to celebrate the gift of God’s Son.”
The crux is that advent calendars are an intentional way to count down the days until the birth of Jesus and a way to bring awareness to that at least once a day. Okay, the meaning of Christmas is right there. I can get behind that. And the hidden treats are perhaps that external motivation we sometimes need to create accountability. I get it and realize now that there are plentiful options (sixty-two and counting) to choose from because we are all into different things and we can all use a daily treat.
I know just the calendar that would be perfect for me.
Opening a little box everyday with a poem would keep me coming back, back to the calendar and back to this season of preparation for the celebration. A third online search brought me to the one I plan to start using as soon as it arrives. Better late than never.
Whether you are a fan of advent calendars or not, I hope you find a daily connection to this season of love and giving from the heart as we prepare for the birth of Jesus Christ.
CYO Camp Co-director
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