The Season of Advent
For Calvin, (and most western Christian churches) Sunday, December 1st, in 2013, marks the beginning of a new church year and its first season – Advent.
Ok, so we’ve got some explaining to do, don’t we?
The Christian year, (also called the church year, or a liturgical year) centers around the key aspects of Jesus’ life that are co-ordinated with the solar calendar. It does not use the positions of the sun and moon, nor on the start and end of school, nor holiday shopping.
As with our secular calendar and year, our church year also has seasons and the first season is obviously Advent. (The Eastern Orthodox Christian churches celebrate the “Nativity Fast” instead of Advent. The “Nativity Fast” begins in the middle of November.)
Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas Day and ends on Christmas Eve. For each of the four Sundays there is a “theme” which we focus and reflect on. For the first Sunday in Advent, the theme is Hope; the second is Peace; the third is Joy; and the fourth is Love.
The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word ‘ad-venio’, which means “to come to”. During Advent, Christians come to reflect on God’s work, – past, present, and future. It is a time of preparation and anticipation for recalling and remembering the birth of the Christ child – Jesus.
Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus by first reflecting on the past, as we remember the history of God’s people as they once waited, (in often turbulent times) for God’s promised Messiah to come to them, to fill their lives with the likes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. During this time, we are also mindful of how much we also need a Savior.
In the present, we prepare to once again celebrate what we believe is the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people, in the coming of Jesus Christ. In Christ, we encounter God’s love in a unique way – one that frees us from past hurts, failures, and mistakes; and helps to make peace with God, ourselves, and others; a love that joyously builds a fully inclusive caring community and restores relationships; a love that offers hope for the future in the promise of both new beginnings and eternal life.
Looking to the future is bit trickier. In part, we are reminded that although God promises eternal life in Christ, death is still one very real step along that road. In believing that God cares about what we do with our lives, we also consider where they are on our spiritual journey, what we have done, and what we may yet do, with the gift of life that God has entrusted to us. We also pray for Christ to come back to the world in such a way as to fill the world, and the lives of all people, with a lasting peace, joy, love, and hope.
Other facts about Advent
Often churches light candles throughout the Advent season as a reminder of what God’s people longed for in the past, what we as God’s people still long and pray for today, of how those things (hope, peace, joy, and love) burn like lights in a sometimes seemingly very dark world, and of how we look for the fulfillment of those things in Christ. As such, we celebrate Advent as a reminder of the spiritual journey of individuals, and congregations, as we affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today (in spirit and in scripture), and that He will come again in power.
The Christian season of Christmas actually begins on Christmas Eve and lasts for twelve days, ending on January 6. (No, the twelve-day season of Christmas did not start with the song. It was the other way around.)
You can also learn much more about Advent and the Christian church year at:
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