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Waiting for the Big Event

 

Advent

The first season of the church year, begins with the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continues through the day before Christmas. The first Sunday of Advent this year is December 2nd.  The name “Advent” is derived from a Latin word for “coming.” The season is a time of preparation and expectation for the coming celebration of our Lord’s nativity, and for the final coming of Christ “in power and glory.”                 

The advent wreath is a circle of greenery, marked by four candles that represent the four Sundays of the season of Advent. An additional candle is lit as each new Sunday is celebrated in Advent.  These wreaths are used both in churches and in homes for devotional purposes. The candles may be blue, purple, or lavender, depending on local custom. Some Advent wreaths include a white candle in the center known as the “Christ Candle,” which is lit on Christmas Eve.

 

Waiting for the Big Event

This month we begin the season of Advent and we end it with Christmas.  Advent is one of my favorite seasons of the Church.  I like Advent because it’s like Lent.  Like Lent, Advent is a time of spiritual preparation for the Big Event.  And like Lent, Advent consists of prayer, fasting, (yes, fasting), repentance, and reading scripture, followed by hope and joy. There’s similarity also in that those folks who only come to church on Christmas Eve and Easter, miss so much by not participating in Advent and Lent and are only there for the Big Event.  But it’s nice that they are there for the Big Event.

What do I like about Advent?  I like Advent calendars even if they don’t have chocolate.  Also, in Advent there’s some really good hymns that we sing in church.  And of course, the Advent wreath.  I bet you already know, but here’s the meaning of each of the four candles.  The first candle that is lit represents Isaiah and other prophets that predicted the coming of Jesus.  The second candle lit represents the Bible.  The lighting of the third candle represents Mary and the candle is pink or rose colored.  The fourth candle represents John the Baptist or hope, love, joy, and peace.

Our celebration of Christmas has rather controversial origins that come from the pagan Roman celebrations of the winter solstice and Saturnalia, which celebrated the god, Saturn.  Our tradition of caroling came from the drunken revelry of Saturnalia when partiers would go through the streets, sometimes naked, singing at the top of their lungs.  And because of its origins, celebrating Christmas was frowned upon by Protestant church leaders who believed the birthday of Jesus deserved a more reverent and spiritual observance.  Christmas did not become widely celebrated in England until Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was published in 1834.  Christmas was also slow to catch on in the United States and in 1907 Oklahoma was the last state to declare Christmas a legal holiday.

But Advent and Christmas is also an emotional time.  Along with the anticipation and joy in December, it is a bittersweet and reflective time as so many of us have lost loved ones during this time of year.  It is my hope that though our culture overwhelms us with the impression that during this season we all need to be happy and focused on gifts, that somehow we can have those quiet times where God and the Holy Spirit are there for us offering strength, peace, and love.  God is with us at those times when we do feel so alone.  Though the days leading up to Christmas can be difficult emotionally, I believe that it is good that the reflection, prayer, and anticipation of Advent is followed by the hope and joy of Christmas.

I am so thankful to be with you at St. Andrew’s during this time and I continue to be amazed and inspired by the love of this church.  We are truly “The Light on the Hill”.  May all of us have a blessed Advent and Christmas filled with love and peace.

Faithfully yours,

Fr. Mike +

 

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