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What is Advent?

by Michael Ford last modified 04 Dec, 2020 11:17 PM

The word Advent comes from the Latin term adventus meaning "arrival" or "coming," particularly the coming of something having great importance.

What is Advent?

Original photo by Richard Hancock

Advent season, then, is both a time of joy-filled, anticipatory celebration of the arrival of Jesus Christ and a preparatory period of repentance, meditation, and penance.

It is also the start of a new the Church year.

In Western Christianity, the season of Advent begins on the 4th Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to 30th November, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or 24th December.

Many Christians celebrate Advent not only by thanking God for Christ's first coming to Earth as a baby, but also for his presence among us today through the Holy Spirit, and in preparation and anticipation of his final coming at the end of the age.

Lighting an Advent wreath is a custom that began in 16th-century Germany. Typically, the Advent wreath is a circle of branches or garland with 4 or 5 candles arranged on the wreath. During the season of Advent, a candle on the wreath is lit each Sunday as a part of the corporate Advent services.

The traditional structure involves 3 purple or dark blue candles and one rose pink one, set in a wreath, and often with a single, larger white candle in the center. One more candle is lit each week of Advent.

The Advent candles and their colors are packed with rich meaning. Each represents a specific aspect of the spiritual preparations for Christmas.

The 3 main colors are purple, pink, and white. Purple symbolizes repentance and royalty. Pink represents joy and rejoicing. And white stands for purity and light and is lit on Christmas morning.

Each candle carries a specific name as well. The first purple candle is called the Prophecy Candle or Candle of Hope. The second purple candle is the Bethlehem Candle or the Candle of Preparation. The third (pink) candle is the Shepherd Candle or Candle of Joy. The fourth candle, a purple one, is called the Angel Candle or the Candle of Love. And the last (white) candle is the Christ Candle.

The Jesse Tree is a unique Advent tree custom that dates back to the Middle Ages and has its origin in Isaiah’s prophecy of the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10). The tradition can be very useful and fun for teaching children about the Bible at Christmas. It represents the family tree, or genealogy, of Jesus Christ. It can be used to tell the story of salvation, beginning with creation and continuing until the coming of the Messiah.

But however you, your family and your church or school marks Advent, know it is a very special season.

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