As the last of the Thanksgiving turkey and leftovers are finally cleared out of the refrigerator and we recover from another “Black Friday” of shopping, we can now turn our attention to the season of Advent.
Believe it or not, Advent is not about endless Christmas parties and frantic shopping! The word “Advent” comes the Latin word adventus (which mean ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’) and is a time for the faithful to prepare for the celebration of the feast of Christmas, the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, and also to prepare for the second coming of Christ.
In the early Church, the season of Advent lasted from November 11, the feast of St. Martin, until Christmas Day. Advent was considered a pre-Christmas season of Lent when Christians devoted themselves to prayer and fasting. Fast days were held every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—so much for parties!
The current form of Advent crystallized in the 11th century under Pope Gregory VII, who set the current four-week length, and wrote liturgical materials for use in Advent. The primary sanctuary color of Advent is purple, the color of royalty, to welcome the Advent of the King. This points to the important connection between Jesus’ birth and death. The nativity and the Incarnation cannot be separated from the crucifixion and the resurrection.
The 20th century brought a rediscovery of the joy in Advent preparations by many Protestant denominations. This was signaled among Protestant Churches by using the color blue, which many have adopted for the season as an alternative to purple.
Please note that Christmas is on a Sunday this year! We will be worshipping that morning at 10:00 am but it will be a casual service (in dress and style) filled with scripture readings and songs.
“Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” is a favorite Advent hymn. Written by Charles Wesley in 1744, it focuses on the “long-expected Jesus” who was born to set us free. Below is the original third stanza of the hymn and the familiar final one:
Come to earth to taste our sadness, he whose glories knew no end;
By his life he brings us gladness, our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend.
Leaving riches without number, born within a cattle stall;
This the everlasting wonder, Christ was born the Lord of all.
Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a king,
Born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.
Advent blessings, Mark