The Advent season has begun, which starts on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year. Many Christians take this opportunity to break away from the mundane of life to participate in something considered special. “Advent is the season observed by many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas,” according to Wikipedia.org. But this definition is only part of the meaning. Advent also refers to the anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ. Although advent is not observed by all Christians, it is a religious practice that appears to provide tremendous benefits to the body, mind and spirit.
Advent integrates body, mind and spirit
Like many religious practices, the commemoration of Advent integrates the body, mind and spirit. When you connect holistically, you allow yourself to feel a part of everything around you through multiple sensory modalities of the body. This creates a feeling of wholeness. From the lighting of the Advent candle, censing, reading of the scriptures, singing of traditional hymns and/or contemporary songs to the time spent in reflection are all experiences that recruit the use of the senses.
The observance of Advent provides physical, mental and spiritual health benefits
Because Advent integrates the body, mind and spirit, it provides physical, mental and spiritual health benefits as well.
Physically, by connecting to others with a shared belief, you feel a sense of well-being. So if you are needing a positive boost in your life right now, then, taking the time to observe Advent can provide that. Feeling connected can also improve your longevity. People who have strong ties to family, friends and a community are known to live longer than those who are socially isolated, says Richard M. Eckersley in Culture, Spirituality, Religion and Health: Looking at the Big Picture:
Socially isolated people are two to five times more likely to die in a given year than those with strong ties to family, friends and community.
Research has shown too that such religious practices “appear to have a central role… in improving health through direct physiological effects on the immune and neuroendocrine systems and by influencing diet, exercise, smoking, drinking and other lifestyle behaviours.”
In addition, mentally, making the time for reflection is good for your emotional and spiritual health.
As one commenter said on Christianity.com, “Advent gives us an opportunity to slow our pace and reflect on Jesus’ first coming and how we celebrate Christmas but it also helps us to appreciate Easter. First, He had to be willing to come and live among us and without His death and resurrection where would our faith be?”
Reflection is powerful, for it connects what was “before” with what is “now” and in the case of Advent–the future,too! This learning tool integrates the past, the present and future. A lot of times, it is only when you are able to slow down and reflect that you see the bigger picture, and thus make sense of life.
So whether you attend a liturgical church or not, this season calls on all Christians to reflect and pray: Take time to think about the reason for the season and your purpose in the bigger story. What is God’s will for you as it relates to his kingdom? How can you prepare for his Second Coming?
“Now may God himself, the God of peace, make you pure, belonging only to him. May your whole self—spirit, soul, and body—be kept safe and without fault when our Lord Jesus Christ comes” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).