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Why Christmas is for Joy and Advent is for Longing

  • Kelly Givens What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
  • Updated Nov 11, 2016

It seems a little weird, particularly in our culture, to celebrate waiting. Especially this time of year. We’re rushing around, busy with parties and presents and plans. It seems like there’s hardly time to wait. But celebrating the wait is precisely what Advent is all about.

In a trending piece on this topic, author Sarah Bessey shares her thoughts on waiting during Advent, how embracing the wait has meant more to her these past few years. “When I was young, I couldn’t understand this emphasis on waiting – let’s get to the Christmas joy! Now that I have wept, now that I have grieved, now that I have lost, now that I have learned to hold space with and for the ones who are hurting, now I have a place for Advent.”

“If Christmas is for the joy,” Sarah says, “then Advent is for the longing.”

I like this distinction between Christmas celebrations and the Advent season, because it makes room, in the midst of all the parties and presents, for those of us who, like Sarah, need to be reminded that it’s okay to feel a longing for more, okay to feel a void this time of year.  

BreakPoint blogger John Stonestreet discusses this distinction in his latest blogpost, Why Advent and the Christmas Season are 2 Different Things. Like Sarah, John sees the importance of acknowledging Advent in a separate way from Christmas. He writes, “[I]t’s not really Christmas season—it’s Advent season, a time set aside by the church to help believers prepare to receive the fullness of Jesus’ coming. And it’s not just in remembrance of His incarnation, coming to Bethlehem as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, but also in anticipation of His return as the “Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

We celebrate waiting during Advent because we worship a God who is rarely early. The Messiah is promised first in Genesis 3:15 - and the wait for him stretches across many generations.

But though he is rarely early, God is also never late. We’re told in Hebrews 11 that our great Old Testament heroes— people like Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Rahab— that all these people we’re still waiting for something more when they died. Ultimately, all were still waiting for the promised Messiah. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar… And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (Heb. 11:13, 39 ESV).

Though it may have seemed as though God would never show up and fulfill the promise of the Messiah, he did. And his timing was perfect.  

We, like our faithful Old Testament heroes, find ourselves in a time of waiting. Yes, Jesus has come and let us remember and celebrate that this Christmas. But don’t pass up the opportunity to reflect on the wait before us – we are waiting for him to come again. But we have hope, because though God is rarely early, he is never late.

Crosswalk contributor Melissa Krueger beautifully sums up our wait: “As believers, we look back, but we also look forward. Just as our children delight in the remembrance of past Christmas joys, they also look forward to what awaits them under the tree. More is yet to come. As His people, we look back and remember that Christ has come and redeemed the world. We look forward and hope for that day when He will come again, making all things new. More is yet to come.”

Kelly Givens is the editor of

Let go of the busyness and stress of the holiday season and open your heart and mind to peace by experiencing the joy of Jesus' birth as you use 12 Advent Prayers! Finding quiet time during the holidays will help you reflect on the reason for Christmas and preparing our hearts to celebrate Christ's birth. Let us know in the comments how you are preparing your heart!