Monday, November 30, 2009
What is Advent?
The season of Advent begins Sunday November 29th, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The word "advent" comes from the Latin word "adventus" which means "coming". Advent is a season of preparation during which, historically, the Church has focused both on the coming of Jesus Christ at his birth and his second coming at the end of the age.
For many Christians, Advent is a season of repentance, almost like Lent, in which John the Baptist's call to Israel, "repent and prepare for the coming of the Lord" becomes a call for believers to examine our hearts and lives and, with God's grace, to rid ourselves of those things which we've set in the way of Jesus Christ and his purposes and desires for us in preparation for his second Advent at the end of the age.
There is, however, a tinge of joy also. We are waiting for the coming of a new Kingdom, a new heaven and a new earth, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ who has already guaranteed the inheritance, resurrection, and eternal life to all who have committed their lives to him.
All this can be somewhat strange feeling...while the rest of the world begins celebrating Christmas right after Thanksgiving (it seems) with carols and lights and decorations, our worship retains a solemn but hopeful feel right up to Christmas Eve (when the church is decked out in lights and color to celebrate the Lord's birth).
But this "hopeful solemnity", because it stands out so much in this season, might also prove to be an opportunity to share the gospel with non-Christian guests--an opportunity to talk about who Jesus is, the virgin born Son of God, the saving work did for us in his life, death and resurrection, and his second coming as both Judge and Deliverer.
Liturgically, you will notice a few changes. The color of my stole (the long scarf-like thing Anglican pastors wear around their necks to symbolize the fact that we are yoked to Christ, or slaves of Christ) and the chasuble (the pancho-like vestment that symbolizes the righteousness of Christ that he has imputed to believers through faith that makes it possible for us to be in communion with the Father) will go from green which is used during "regular time" (during Pentecost and from Epiphany to Lent) to either blue or purple...Blue is used to point to the coming dawn. It recalls the darkness before the birth of Christ and the dawn of his birth and second coming. Purple is the more traditional color that symbolizes repentance and sorrow for sin.
On the third Sunday of Advent, the liturgical color changes, for one Sunday only, from blue or purple to "rose" because that is the Sunday traditionally set aside to honor the faith and faithfulness of Mary. At Good Shepherd, we do not pray to or through Mary. Scripture teaches and so we believe that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived in her womb through the Holy Spirit and remained a virgin until after Jesus was born when she and Joseph had more children. God gave her amazing faith and courage and we revere her as the mother who bore and raised the very Son of God incarnate but recognize that she also was a sinner saved through faith in her own Son. Her song of praise in Luke 1:46-55 is a beautiful testimony to God's grace and saving power in her own life and in ours.
During Advent you will also notice a tall candle standing in the center of the altar area. Near the top, you will see what looks like a Christmas wreath with four candles. This is an Advent wreath. Each Sunday in Advent (there are four) one candle is lit until Christmas Eve when all the candles are lighted. As each candle is lit, over the course of four Sundays, the increasing light represents the light of Christ steadily defeating the darkness of the fallen world and ultimately overcoming it.
If you have any questions during this season (or any other time) please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 773-4810