What is Advent and why do we celebrate it?

What is Advent and why do we celebrate it? by Neil Rees  for Christian Today

In churches across the land, Advent marks the coming of Christmas. This is the story …

Origin of the word Advent

The English word Advent is not in the Bible. However, the word is biblical in the sense that the word advent came into English from the Latin adventus, meaning arrival, which appears many times in the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. In the Latin New Testament, different forms of this word were used to translate the Greek word παρουσία (parousia), meaning arrival, coming, or presence, depending on the context.

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In everday English, the word advent is used to describe the arrival of a new era e.g. “the advent of the motor car”, or “the advent of the Internet”. However, in the Christian context the word Advent is usually used as a proper noun associated with the period before Christmas, although it is used in other ways too. Ever since it was first expounded by the great Cistercian monk St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), the term Advent has been used in the Christian tradition to describe the arrival of Christ in three different contexts: to refer to the Advent of Christmas, the Second Advent and the Advent of New Life, which we will look at now in more detail.

The Advent of Christmas

Many Christians will use Advent to describe the time coming up to Christmas. Historically Advent operated in a similar way to the advent of Easter, called Lent, which were times of preparation to focus and rededicate our spiritual lives. During Advent, many churches look at the biblical stories which precede the birth of Christ. They look at the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah, the birth of John the Baptist who prepared the way, and then look at the birth of Jesus. The nativity narratives are found in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke.

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