Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent always starts on the Sunday closest to November 30th. If Christmas eve is on a Sunday, that week actually counts as the last week of Advent
Christmas runs for 12 days, also known as the 12 days of Christmas Dec 24th – Jan 6th. (Christmas technically begins on sunset of the 24th, this is why it can also be the last Sunday in Advent).
The word Advent actually means coming or arrival, the focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ in his first Advent/Arrival and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his second Advent/coming. Therefor advent is much more than just simply marking an event in history. It is the chance to celebrate the truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. This is the process for which we participate and that of which we anticipate.
As we recognize the double focus of Advent on both past and future this symbolizes the journey of both individuals and our larger congregation. We affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that he will come again in power. This knowledge proves that basis for Kingdom ethics, for Holy living coming out of the sense that we are living BETWEEN THE TIMES and that we are called to be faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to us. So as we celebrate God breaking into history with his birth and the anticipation of his return “all creation is groaning awaiting it’s redemption” This also confesses our own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself”.
The Spirit of Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, anticipation. preparation and longing. It is in that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation. It is that hope that once anticipated, and now anticipated anew, the reign of an Anointed one, a Messiah, who will bring peace and justice and righteousness to the world.
The Advent Wreath. The advent wreath is unique and in my opinion much more interesting that the average Christmas wreath. The Advent wreath lies flat on a table and does NOT hang on a door. It is generally made of greenery and hosts five candles four in the structure of the wreath and one in the middle.
*The circle of the wreath reminds us of God Himself, His eternity and endless mercy, which has no beginning or end.
*The green of the wreath speaks of the hope that we have in God, the hope of newness, of renewal, of eternal life.
*Candles symbolize the light of God coming into the world through the birth of His son. The four outer candles represent the period of waiting during the four Sunday of advent, which themselves symbolize the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Christ.
The lighting of the candles itself becomes and important symbol of the season, we light the candles each week in anticipation of the coming light. With each week that we light another candle and more light comes from our advent wreath we can visually see and process the evil and darkness in the world being pushed back as we the children of God move forward each week in His light. Finally through the advent time the light that has already come to the world is plain to see as we light the Christ candle. At Christmas and we celebrate and rejoice over the fact that the hope and promises of long ago have been realized.
The first candle we light is traditionally noted to bring EXPECTATION and HOPE.
The second reminds us of the leading of the TRUE SHEPHERD
The third should symbolize JOY.
The forth candle symbolizes the JOURNEY traditionally the journey of the MAGI to find the true light.
The fifth candle.. the Christ candle reminds us that Jesus is the heart of the season, giving light to the world.