Weekly Devotional: What Is Advent?

Woman lighting four seasonal candles on a table

In This Devotional:

What Is Advent?

Advent is a word that means arrival and can be used to describe the arrival of significant events or moments in time.1 For Christians, advent means awaiting the arrival of the second coming of Jesus Christ. Advent is celebrated as a season of preparation for the arrival and for remembrance of Christ. The four weeks that lead up to Christmas, the day we celebrate the first arrival of the King as a newborn baby, is when advent is celebrated.1 Christians from many denominations and traditions celebrate advent in slightly different ways. However, one common characteristic of advent is that it is a celebration done in community and a time of hope for the fulfilled promise of Christ’s arrival.

Four Themes of Advent

While there are other ways to examine and celebrate the season of advent, we will go over some common themes of advent and what they mean to us.

You may be familiar with these words and have seen them commonly associated with the Christmas season. That is no coincidence! Advent is a way to celebrate the Christmas season and these themes have remained relevant to this time of year. Each week of advent has a special theme to focus on and celebrate together, all relating to the preparation and anticipation of Christ’s second arrival.

1. Hope: The first theme of advent is hope. Hope in the context of advent means having hope in the promises of Jesus and holding on to hope as we wait for him. A Hebrew word used for hope in the Old Testament is “yakhal,” which means simply to wait for. Our hope in the season of advent is yakhal, to wait for God and to wait for the restoration he will bring through his son.
2. Peace: The second week of advent focuses on peace. Peace in Hebrew is “shalom” and shalom means a state of perfect harmony and balance. God created the world to be in shalom, perfect peace, but that is not the world we live in today. The coming of Christ brings the promise that shalom will be restored and we can live in peace on earth that surpasses our understanding.

3. Love: In week three, we celebrate love. Love is why God came down to earth to live with us and to be a sacrifice to offer us salvation. Because of God’s love, Christ will come again to deliver his promises to us. It is this love that teaches us how to love one another the way Jesus showed us. The Greek word “agape” can reflect this self-giving action of love demonstrated by Jesus that we celebrate and reflect on during advent.
4. Joy: The theme of the last week of advent is joy — how fitting is that! Right before Christmas, we spend time reflecting on the everlasting joy that is made possible by a loving God. Joy is not just a feeling of happiness but a state of being that reflects the true satisfaction in what is good and pure. "Chara" is a Greek word used in the New Testament to describe this unique kind of joy that stems from hope and faith.

Four Reflections for the Advent Season

1. Hope, or yakhal: Romans 8:24-25 describes the kind of hope we should have during the advent season; the kind that comes from patiently waiting for our Lord. How can you yakhal, or hope by waiting, during this season in your life? What is something good that you don’t yet have but that you are waiting on?

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Romans 8:24-25NIV

2. Peace, or shalom: Shalom means fullness, wholeness and complete well-being. Shalom is beyond just the absence of war or struggle, which is how we typically interpret our English word for peace. Jesus is speaking in John 14:27 about bringing shalom, a wholeness of being that surpasses what we understand as just an absence of struggle. What might this kind of peace look like for you?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:27NIV

3. Love, or agape: The love of Christ is self-giving. During this week of the advent season, reflect on this agape love that is self-sacrificial and focused on others needs. What are ways you can show love to others that serves them?
4. Joy, or chara: Advent is meant for celebration. It is a time to reflect on important themes, on the blessings God has provided for us, and share in those blessings with those around us. That should bring you joy! What else can you reflect on that brings you joy and how can you share that with others this week?

There are many ways to celebrate the advent season and to share the themes of hope, peace, love and joy with others. At Grand Canyon University, local and global outreach ministries provide an opportunity to help you reflect on and practice the many themes of advent year-round. To hear more about GCU’s identity and mission, fill out the form on this page.

1BibleProject. (n.d.). BibleProject Guides: Advent. Retrieved Oct. 15, 2023. 

Approved by the local outreach coordinator of the Spiritual Life department on Oct. 31, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.