Christmas or Advent? Which one’s better?

If you answered “yes,” you got it.

Most people in our culture know a lot about Christmas and very little to nothing about Advent, but they actually work together to create something pretty cool. Advent is a decidedly Christian observance (and it’s funny that I’m having to differentiate that from Christmas). Christmas, while it celebrates something profound for the church, has been hijacked by culture, and it subtly tries to seduce us with materialism, consumerism, myths of a man in a red suit who only comes out at night, and the allure of happiness gained by things the world offers.

The sad reality, for many people, is that the Christmas season does not fulfill all that it promises. For many people, Christmas leaves them wishing for things they don’t have. For others it does provide some sense of satisfaction, only to be replaced less than a week later by a desire for even more, as people hit the malls for after Christmas sales. If that isn’t evidence enough, New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest holidays and party nights in our calendar year, only a week after the supposed fulfillment that Christmas is supposed to bring.

What we are left with over and over again are dashed hopes and unfulfilled desires, so we dig deeper in and repeat the cycle over and over again because, for many of us, there really isn’t anywhere else to look than at what the world puts on display. So we keep hoping that if we can just get enough broken things, they will eventually fill the empty cup. Sadly, it never happens.Advent, on the other hand, points away from these things and to something much more profound and ultimately satisfying. Instead of encouraging us to find fulfillment immediately, whatever the cost, Advent acknowledges that there is only one thing that will truly satisfy us: the reality of Jesus’ presence.

Advent points to a promise making and promise keeping God who made a promise to redeem and restore his people, and it reminds us that Jesus came into the world to fulfill that promise. Advent points to another promise that God made: that one day Jesus will come a second time, and when he does he will restore all things to their proper order, erasing both the presence and the effects of sin in our lives, and he will put an end to suffering, failures, and emptiness. Advent points us away from the pursuit of immediate pleasure and to the promises that there is much more coming if we will only trust God and wait.

The first Christmas was the very beginning of the fulfillment of all these things, so it is a great and glorious day. And rightfully we celebrate on that day year after year. Advent is a season of preparation, remembering, and preparing our hearts to celebrate, even as we anticipate so much more. So Advent is the ascent up the mountain, leading us to the goal, and Christmas is the culmination of a season of remembrance. They go hand in hand, pointing us together toward the gospel and toward hope in the only one who can truly satisfy.

So this Christmas, this Advent, will you choose not to look to the promises of the world and the holiday season for satisfaction? Will you instead look to the one who kept a promise and is working toward the fulfillment of another. What will you do to cultivate belief in the promises of God this Advent season?

Download our Advent Guide as a resource for you and your family this season.