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“Do You Celebrate Advent?”
Advent is here. This past Sunday, November 29th was the First Sunday of Advent 2020.
Advent is a season of the liturgical year observed in most Christian denominations as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming. Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year in Western Christianity. The term "Advent" is also used in Eastern Orthodoxy for the 40-day Nativity Fast, which has practices different from those in the West.
The name was adopted from Latin adventus "coming; arrival", translating Greek parousia. In the New Testament, this is the term used for the Second Coming of Christ. Thus, the season of Advent in the Christian calendar anticipates the "coming of Christ" from three different perspectives: the physical nativity in Bethlehem, the reception of Christ in the heart of the believer, and the eschatological Second Coming.
Practices associated with Advent include keeping an Advent calendar, lighting an Advent wreath, praying an Advent daily devotional, erecting a Christmas tree or a Chrismon tree, as well as other ways of preparing for Christmas, such as setting up Christmas decorations, a custom that is sometimes done liturgically through a hanging of the greens. The equivalent of Advent in Eastern Christianity is called the Nativity Fast, but it differs in length and observances, and does not begin the liturgical church year as it does in the Western Church. The Eastern Nativity Fast does not use the equivalent parousia in its preparatory services.
It is not known when the period of preparation for Christmas that is now called Advent began. It was certainly in existence from about 480 and was introduced by the Council of Tours of 567 to order monks to fast every day in the month of December until Christmas. It is impossible to claim with confidence a credible explanation of the origin of Advent. We do know it has evolved over time.
As noted before, the theme of readings and teachings during Advent is often the preparation for the Second Coming and the Last Judgement. The first clear references in the Western Church to Advent occur in the Gelasian Sacramentary (the second oldest Liturgical writings in existence), which provides Advent Collects, Epistles, and Gospels for the five Sundays preceding Christmas and for the corresponding Wednesdays and Fridays. While the Sunday readings relate to the first coming of Jesus Christ as savior as well as to his Second Coming as judge, traditions vary in the importance of penitence during the weeks in Advent.
(The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Ed. F.L.Cross, 2nd ed., O.U.P., 1974))
At HOPE Church Raleigh, we have celebrated the Advent Season since our beginning. Note, not all Christian churches celebrate the Advent Season, including many EPC churches. There are usually four common words associated with the four Sundays of Advent, those being: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. These are represented in 4 candles in the Advent Wreath. And then on Christmas Eve the Christ Candle (white) is lit to finish the lighting of all five candles.
Several years ago we use four different words of focus during the four Sundays of Advent. Those words were: Prophecy, Bethlehem, Shepherds, and Angels. We related appropriate birth narrative scriptures around these words.
This year (2020) I have chosen to use four different words of focus moving away from the traditional ones. This year we will use these words during the four Sundays of Advent: Awaken, Repent, Prepare, and Receive. I will again choose related passages of scripture that lift up these words. Then on Christmas Eve I have chosen the focus word of “Glorify”.
Advent begins the liturgical church year, but more than that for me, Advent brings meaning to the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. For me, I celebrate all three perspectives mentioned earlier: The physical birth of Jesus the Messiah in Bethlehem, the anticipated second coming of the King of Glory, and the coming of Jesus Christ into my heart as a believer. Each one takes on a beautiful meaning for me this time of year.
I don’t know if Advent means anything at all to you and your walk with Jesus. But I pray that each of you this year will awaken your soul, repent of any sin, be prepared for what Christ has in store for you, and receive Him as Lord. If you do, then you will glorify Him in all aspects of your life! May it be so!!!
Pastor Marty - HOPE Church Raleigh
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