Christmas advent is observed in several Western Christian churches. The word advent is derived from the Latin adventus, which means ‘coming’ or ‘arrival’, Christians wait for coming of Jesus Christ. It begins on Advent Sunday and is the commencement of the Western liturgical year. The equivalent of Advent in Eastern churches is known as N ativity Fast. But Nativity Fast is different in observances and length. May be the Advent calendar marks the progression of the season. This practice was introduced by German Lutherans. In the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran calendars, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before 25th December, the Sunday between 27th November and 3rd December inclusive. Advent includes Christmas and Epiphany and continues till Lent season begins.
Advent is not only about waiting for the Christ but also preparing for return of Jesus on the Judgment Day. In fact, the Advent season focuses on threefold coming of Christ- past, present and future. First, the Lord’s modest first coming in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. Second, His present and persistent coming to us through Word and Sacrament and finally, looking forward hopefully to His second coming in glory to judge the living and the dead on the Last Day.
The four Sundays of Advent are arranged to ponder on different aspects of Christ’s coming. The first Sunday deals with Christ’s victorious arrival in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the second Sunday introduces the prophetic message of John the Baptist. The third Sunday emphasizes on the content of John’s preaching. The final Sunday of Advent is the bridge to Christmas with its concentration to the miracle of Christ’s conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The customary color for the season of Advent is purple. This color was used by kings to signify their royal status. Purple also indicates the repentance of God’s people as they await the arrival of their Lord. Recently, some churches have adopted blue as the Advent color. It represents hope, belief and heaven. In art and iconography, blue is also associated to Virgin Mary.
Famous symbol used during Advent season is the Advent Wreath. It consists of a circle of evergreen branches set around four candles. The evergreen circle represents the everlasting life that Christ has won for all believers. The burning candles signify the coming of Christ as the light of the world. Advent candles can vary in colors. Customarily, three purple candles and one rose-colored or pink candle are used. Starting from the first Advent Sunday, each candle is lit on each succeeding Sunday.
During Advent season, the church contemplates the wonder of God’s mercy and love in Jesus Christ. Christians prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord by exercising the Advent disciplines. The seven short evening prayers that are by tradition chanted are Great O Antiphons. They are chanted during Advent worship from the 17th to the 23rd of December. They are a part of the regular devotions of many churches nowadays.