Celebrating Advent vs Celebrating Christmas

Every year around this time we find ourselves inundated with the battle over whether we say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays! I have long since washed my hands of such discussions, but lately I have started to wonder whether or not we should start to question the way we name this season after all. I am not talking about debating using holidays, Christmas, or Chrismahanukwanzakah as a proper descriptor… rather, I’d like to see the phrase “Christmas Season” be replaced with Advent.

You may think I am crazy, or having a silly little argument about semantics, but bear with me: when someone says the word Christmas, what do you think of?

Call me a heretic, but here are some of the first images that come to my mind: gifts, meals, old people snoring on couches, switches and coal (don’t ask), trees, and Jesus. 

In many ways, for many reasons, Christmas, the day, has become hard to decipher from Christmas, the event. Advent, on the other hand, is a little different.

The word advent is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, or coming. The Advent Season is one that commemorates the coming of Christ, and all that it means for Israel, and you and I. This season, as we draw closer to the celebration of our Lord’s birth, it has been my desire to lean into the celebration of Advent… celebrating His coming so many years ago in that manger, but also hopeful for his future coming.

For those of us in the church world, December brings with it a special set of challenges for church leaders. Not only are family demands at an all time high, Christmas parties abound, and the intensity of our programming ratchets way up. My hope and prayer for each of us during this season is that we might make the time and space to intentionally lean into Advent, celebrate the coming, remember why we do what we do.

How are YOU being intentional about worshiping through this busy ministry season?


About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.

  • Linda Bradley

    Matt: I agree with your thoughts about Christmas vs. Advent. About 20 years ago when Pastor Mike came to our church, we began to celebrate Advent, like many things ‘we, as a small church’ did not understand Advent. After learning, I so enjoy our season of Advent! I appreciate you and Theresa and pray for both of you! The other portion of this Christmas / Holiday conversation is the root of the word holiday = Holy day! Many Blessings along with Faith, Hope and Love!