This Sunday marks the first day of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation. It is also a time of expectation and hope. The word “Advent” comes from Latin meaning, “to come” or “arrive.”
We prepare for two things:
1. For the birth of Jesus. We celebrate Christmas on Dec 25 through January 5.
2. For when Jesus returns to complete the kingdom. With this understanding Advent is something lifted-up throughout the year.
We have seen a shift in the understanding of the Advent season. In years past Advent was treated as a penitential time (like Lent) prior to the celebration of Christmas. In more recent time Advent has been seen more as a time of hope, waiting and expectation. We no longer use purple as the color for Advent (this is reserved for Lent) but the color has been changed to blue signifying hope and royalty. This tradition of blue comes from the Scandinavian church.
Advent marks the beginning of a new Church year. Our Gospel readings are based on a three-year cycle. We just conclude the year of Luke, now most of the Sunday Gospel readings will be shared from Matthew. Typically, the Gospel readings focus on the following during Advent:
1st & 2nd Sundays in Advent – The end of the world (Eschaton)
3rd Sunday of Advent – John the Baptist as the forerunner to Christ
4th Sunday of Advent – Mary, who accepts her role as the Mother of Jesus (Servant)
What might we experience differently in Advent during our worship?
First, one will note the presence of the Advent wreath. The wreath, traditionally made of evergreens, represents eternal life. The four candles are lit in succession during the four Sundays. This represents the Light that is coming into the world. Some traditions have given each candle a “theme” like “hope” or “joy.”
There will be two noticeable changes in worship. First, the Confession will be moved to the beginning of the service and second, the use of the contemporary Lord’s prayer.