What is Advent?

The word “advent” comes from the Latin word, adventus for “coming” and thus describes the first season in the church calendar year. It is observed as a season of preparation for what is the “Christ-Mass” — the service in which the coming of Emmanuel, God-with-us, is celebrated.

In today’s celebration Advent and Christmas are conflated into one season. Sadly, we miss an opportunity to prepare. Tish Harrison Warren, writes this weekend of the significance of Advent. The title in her article in the New York Times gets to the heart of it. “If you want to get into the spirit of Christmas, face the darkness.” You may read it here.

Many churches (and Grace is one), mark the season by lighting Advent wreath candles. The use of candles during the Advent season originated in Germany prior to the Reformation. Originally, there were only four Advent candles: three purple candles and one pink candle. The purple candles matched the purple paraments (the cloth that lays on the altar and the pulpit) and signified the coming King Jesus. (Purple is the color of royalty). The Pink candle is the third candle to be lit, and it is lit on Gaudate Sunday, (the third Sunday in Advent). “Gaudate” means “Rejoice!” in Latin, and is the first word for the traditional introit for that day which is taken from Philippians 4:4-5 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” The white candle or the Christ Candle was added later and obviously represents Christ and was to be lit during the twelve days of Christmas (Dec 25-Jan 5).

GPC follows a common practice of identifying each of the candles with a theme. The themes each week are: hope, love, joy, and peace. The sermon passages will pick up on those themes.

As you prepare for the celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ, you may want to look at these resources.
How December 25 Became Christmas.
Malcom Guite speaking on Advent.
Biola University’s Advent Devotional.

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