We are quickly moving into the Advent season in the church. This is an exciting time for God’s people as we wait expectantly for the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. This time of the year is more than just a “warm up” to Christmas; it’s a time of deep, meaningful worship as we reflect on how after hundreds of years of silence between the Old and New Testament eras, God finally spoke again through the mouthpiece of His own Son. Still unsure as to what this season is all about? Take a moment to read over this summary, composed by our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod:
Why does the church year begin at Advent, what is the history of Advent, and what is the history behind the Advent candles and wreath?
The word “advent” is from the Latin word for “coming,” and as such, describes the “coming” of our Lord Jesus Christ into the flesh.
Advent begins the church year because the church year begins where Jesus’ earthly life began — in the Old Testament prophecies of his incarnation. After Advent comes Christmas, which is about his birth; then Epiphany, about his miracles and ministry; then Lent, about his Calvary-bound mission; then Easter, about his resurrection and the sending of the apostles; and then Ascension (40 days after Easter) and Pentecost, with the sending of the Holy Spirit.
The first half of the church year (approximately December through June) highlights the life of Christ. The second half (approximately June through November) highlights the teachings of Christ. The parables and miracles play a big part here. That’s “the church year in a nutshell,” and it should help reveal how Advent fits into “the big picture.”
Advent specifically focuses on Christ’s “coming,” but Christ’s coming manifests itself among us in three ways — past, present, and future. The readings which highlight Christ’s coming in the past focus on the Old Testament prophecies of his incarnation at Bethlehem. The readings, which highlight Christ’s coming in the future, focus on his “second coming” on the Last Day at the end of time. And the readings that highlight Christ’s coming in the present focus on his ministry among us through Word and Sacrament today.
The traditional use of Advent candles (sometimes held in a wreath) originated in eastern Germany even prior to the Reformation. As this tradition came down to us by the beginning of this century, it involved three purple candles and one pink candle. The purple candles matched the purple paraments on the altar (purple for the royalty of the coming King). The pink candle was the third candle to be lit (not the fourth) on Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent. “Gaudete” means “Rejoice!” in Latin, which is taken from Phil. 4:4.
*Also take a look at this great description put to video.
See you this Advent season!
Enjoying the Journey,
The first Sunday in Advent is November 29th. At St. Paul’s we offer Midweek Advent Worship on Wednesdays in December (Dec. 2, 9, 16) at 12:15pm (traditional) and 6:30pm (blended style, contemporary with some traditional elements). Both services include a “teaching” format during message time, but the evening service also includes activity for children, to involve the whole family in the experience. Dinner is also served weekly at 5:30pm in the Fellowship Area, provided by different ministry groups each week. This is a great weekly habit for you and your family as you prepare for Christmas!