What is Advent and How Do We Celebrate It? from Rev. Dana
The word ‘Advent’ is from the Latin meaning ‘coming.’ Advent is the beginning of a new liturgical or church year as we anticipate the coming of Jesus. It is the first season of the year and leads up to Christmas. The first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (which is November 30th), and so it will always fall somewhere between November 27th at the earliest and December 3rd at the latest. This year it is November 29th. Like Lent, Advent is a preparatory season. The coming that we anticipate is two-fold, preparing for or looking forward to Jesus first in the manger that we celebrate at Christmas and also Jesus’ Second Coming. It is a time of waiting, but not idly for these events, but actively getting ready. The readings throughout Advent go in a sort of reverse fashion, starting with Jesus’ Second Coming and working our way back to anticipating Jesus’ first coming in Bethlehem.
Traditionally the liturgical colour for this season was purple, the same as Lent. This was because Advent was also considered a penitential season as people prepared for Christmas, as we prepare during Lent for Easter. More recently Advent has become more a season of hope and expectation, so many churches have switched to blue as the colour of the season to first, distinguish it from Lent and secondly, as a colour of anticipation. At Trinity we use blue.
A 20th century tradition that helps us to be active in our waiting is the Advent Wreath with four candles, encircling a central candle. The tradition began in the 1930’s in Europe, where the darkness of the season was particularly evident and the growing light from the wreath was a symbol of the light of Jesus breaking into the world. The wreath is often decorated with evergreen boughs, symbolizing the eternal life that comes from Jesus. The outside candles generally follow the colour of the church, either purple or blue, with the third candle being pink. This pink candle was considered a lightening up of the purple, but has remained even in churches that switched to blue. There have been different sets of names and meanings, although most Anglican churches use Hope, Peace, Joy and Love with the center candle the Christ Candle that is lit on Christmas Eve. These themes each point to different aspects of what Jesus brings into our lives – as our source of hope, peace, joy and love. As mentioned, the third candle is pink, which is the candle of Joy, hence the lightening up.
Another tradition often associated with Advent is the Advent Calendar, which tends to run from December 1st to 24th or 25th. As children we might have experienced an advent calendar with little doors you popped open and there was a chocolate behind the door. Other advent calendars might have a scripture verse printed inside. This is a tradition that has been widely embraced by society at large, without the spiritual connection, as we see all different varieties of Advent calendars for sale, from 24 days of tea or coffee pods, to Lego with different small builds each day that create a larger scene. A few years ago, I came across a different kind of Advent Calendar, the “Advent of Gratitude.” Each day you give thanks for what we already have and suggests a small donation amount, like “count the number of pairs of shoes you have and pay 0.10 for each pair. At the end of 24 days you choose a charity to donate the money collected. I have scheduled a post on our Facebook page for this Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, with a version that you can use.
One of the challenges that celebrating Advent can have is that Christmas is being celebrated all around us in decorations, Christmas carols and other general preparations for Christmas. Some churches do not decorate or sing Christmas Carols until it is actually Christmas or very close to it. This can leave us feeling out of sync with the wider society. While Christmas often ends for those around us on December 25th ours is just beginning and extends until at least January 6th but for some through February 2nd when we celebrate Jesus’ presentation at the temple, 40 days after his birth. Rather than suggest to people they should not do Christmas before Christmas, I want to encourage you to find some ways of incorporating Advent traditions, and marking this as a time of waiting. This could mean holding back on some of your decorating, gradually building up to Christmas, as a sign of waiting and anticipating or doing some sort of Advent devotions around waiting. We are also offering this year a special Advent Wreath that you can colour and assemble yourself and which has a short prayer that goes with each candle. The good news, there is no fire danger as you colour the flame rather than light a candle. We are delivering these to families in the parish. Anyone else who would like a copy, for themselves or to share with younger family members, can just email me (email@example.com) to have the file emailed to them or to arrange for a copy to be printed for pickup.
Advent is a short but special season that begins our Christian year. My prayers are with you as enter this season of preparation and anticipation. May you discover new hope, peace, joy and love this season that leads you into the great sense of all of these as we celebrate God among us, Emmanuel, Jesus.
Notes about Worship
A few reminders about in-person worship:
1) Please register at https://reopen.church/r/iRudYx1r Services for the first three weeks of December are now available. If anything changes regarding opening this is also the easiest way for us to inform those who are planning to attend.
2) We ask that you plan to arrive after 9:40 am for worship on Sunday mornings, so as to limit the time spent in the building.
3) Dress appropriate to the weather as we need to keep at least one window open. All outerwear goes with you into the pew.
4) Please leave your offering in the offering plate when you check in, prior to being seated by the sidesperson.
Ways of Connecting
- Worship: Sunday at 10 am is Facebook Live worship and the video from the service remains there for anyone who wishes to watch it later. We are also posting the link on our website. The service outline is on our website under Virtual Worship to follow along.
- Phone or email: The best way to reach Rev. Dana is email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or you may text, call or leave a message on her cell phone 289-383-1036, (She sometimes forgets to check the office voicemail since she does not work in the office most days.)
- Rev. Dana’s Thursday Morning Drop-In, at the north doors, 10 am until 12 noon
- The church office is open Wednesday mornings, 9:30 am until noon.