The Season of Advent marks the beginning of the church calendar each year and begins on Sunday, November 27, this year.
The Latin word “advent” means arrival or appearance, the coming of something or someone. Each year Christians set aside four weeks as we anticipate and prepare for Christmas, our celebration of Christ’s coming into the world.
Classically, the four Sundays of Advent have the themes Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. During the weeks of Advent, Christians focus on these and other principles that we associate with the birth of Jesus and the Christ-light. The season is an opportunity for spiritual reflection and preparation because at Christmas we don’t only celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, we also anticipate the second advent – Christ’s promised return. The Season of Advent reminds us, in the present, that our faith constantly calls us to look both toward the past and the future as we yearn for God’s kin-dom “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). Dennis Bratcher of the Christian Resource Institute writes that this double focus “…provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live ‘between the times’ and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people.”
During Advent we sing hymns of longing like O Come, O Come Emmanuel, we light candles, make wreaths, and pray. Brattier reminds us that, during Advent, our “…prayers are prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers of submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers from those walking in darkness who are awaiting and anticipating a great light (Isaiah 9)!
Historically, the color of Advent, like Lent, was purple symbolizing penitence and signally the color of royalty, since we celebrate the arrival of the Prince of Peace. However, I lean toward the recent custom of using blue during Advent. Blue is meant to evoke the color of the night sky right before dawn when we anticipate the announcement of the birth of our Savior, and its meant to remind us of waters evocative of birth, baptism, and creation in Genesis 1 for, in Christ, we anticipate the beginning of a new creation. On the third Sunday of Advent, “Joy” Sunday, we light a pink candle. Traditionally, this is known as Gaudete Sunday (the Latin word for “rejoice”) and it marks a shift in our observances as we enter the more festive part of the season approaching Christmas.
Finally, another tradition accompanies our Advent observances – each year on the Monday before the First Sunday of Advent, we gather for the Hanging of the Greens. Red and green are cultural and seasonal colors for the season originating in the ancient European traditions of hanging holly and bringing evergreens into the home over winter and the new year season. Now we decorate our church with evergreens to symbolize the hope and promise of new life in Christ, even in our most barren wintertimes.
I hope you will join us this season to enjoy the symbolism and the promise and hope we celebrate. See the Calendar for more info.