It’s the most wonderful time of year, isn’t it? And while some scoff at carols being sung on the radio before December 1, Christians throughout history have embraced this season of spiritual preparation using Advent readings—short Bible passages read during the lighting of the Advent wreath. This sacred time invites us to slow down from all the holiday preparations and parties, take a deep breath, and remember the reason for the season: the eternal Jesus Christ taking on human flesh. But how do all the different parts of Advent work together, and how can you incorporate Advent into your church or family life? That’s what this article will help you figure out, specifically guiding you through the practice of Advent readings.
Generally, the themes that correspond to each week fall into these categories:
- Week 1: Hope (or promise)
- Week 2: Preparation (or waiting or prophecy)
- Week 3: Joy (or peace)
- Week 4: Love (or adoration)
While the differences in weekly Advent themes may be confusing, we can unite in our desire to quiet our hearts during a hectic holiday season and worship Jesus. And the good news is that you can definitely mix and match these weekly themes with various Advent readings that will best serve your congregation or your family. There is no right or wrong way to observe Advent as long as you’re coming to God with a sincere and open heart.
First Sunday of Advent Readings: Hope
Isaiah 9:2, 6-7:
“The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned. […]
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.”
Second Sunday of Advent Readings: Preparation
“A voice of one calling:
‘In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
Third Sunday of Advent Readings: Joy
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (NIV)
Fourth Sunday of Advent Readings: Love
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
Fifth Sunday (Christmas Eve): Adoration