More about holy days

The Season of Advent

Theme:
Preparing for the Coming of the Lord
Dates:
Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on the day before Christmas. Thus it begins on 2 December 2012 and ends on 24 December at sundown. (Christmas Eve begins at sundown.)
Colors:
In most churches, the decorations are purple or blue; royal colors to welcome the King. You can read more about color in worship.
Scripture Readings:
The Revised Common Lectionary appoints Scripture readings for use in worship during the Season of Advent.
The East:
Orthodox churches do not have an Advent Season. Instead, they have a Lenten season lasting from 15 November through 24 December.

Advent originated as a period during which converts prepared themselves for baptism through instruction, prayer, fasting, and reflection, much like Lent. The length of Advent varied from three days to six weeks—six weeks being approximately 40 days, the length of time that Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry.

The Western Church

The general topic of Advent is the coming of Jesus Christ, both in the manger in Bethlehem and in the clouds of glory.

In the west during the Middle Ages, Advent became a time to prepare for the Second Coming, because in those days, many people were convinced that all the signs pointed to the imminent return of Christ. In time, Advent spread throughout the western Church and became fixed at its present length. Over the last fifty years, Advent has come to anticipate the Nativity as well. For many people today, especially retailers, Advent is just a ramp-up to Christmas.

The Revised Common Lectionary retains the original theme of Lent and uses John the Baptist as a transition to the events leading up to Jesus’ birth:

The First Sunday in Advent
Jesus explains that no one knows the time of the Second Coming, therefore we should always be prepared.
The Second Sunday in Advent
John the Baptist preaches repentance to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
The Third Sunday in Advent
In Year A, John’s disciples ask Jesus who He is.
In Year B, John explains that he is not the Messiah.
In Year C, John explains how people should repent.
The Fourth Sunday in Advent
In Year A, Joseph learns that Mary is still a virgin, even though she is pregnant.
In Year B, Gabriel explains to Mary that even though she is a virgin, she will give birth to the Son of God.
In Year C, Mary goes to Elizabeth and expresses her joy (the passage known as the Magnificat).

The Eastern Church

The eastern Church does not have a season of Advent, in the western sense. It retains the original forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and reflection.

Roughly speaking, the Western Church consists of Protestants, Catholics, and Anglicans. The Eastern Church consists of the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Oriental Orthodox churches, and the eastern-rite churches affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.

You can find out how to make and use an Advent wreath. It’s a bit early, but see also Christmas Facts.

You can download a printable version of this page to use as a hand-out or a bulletin insert.

Other Seasons

Christmas | Epiphany | Lent | Holy Week | Easter | After Pentecost