Graphic courtesy Pinterest.com
Dec. 5, 2018 – West Bend, WI – What you might not know, because our culture tends to jump from Thanksgiving Day straight to Christmas until the 25th and then Christmas is over. Yet, this is not how it has always been, in fact in liturgical churches Christmas doesn’t start until the evening service on December 24. In these churches to aid our preparation for the coming of Jesus, the practice of the season of Advent (Advent means “coming” from the Latin adventus) is retained. The season of Advent is a penitential season known as a “little Lent.”
The Season of Advent prepares us not for God’s birth as true man but for the commemoration of this historic event. The primary thought of Advent is the thought of the Lord’s coming in the flesh, coming in glory, and the coming in grace.
Advent is the first season in the “Time of Christmas.” The Western Church sets the season of Advent as beginning on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday that falls closest to November 30, and lasting through the daytime services of December 24. Christmas begins with the evening services on December 24 and extends through the twelve days of Christmas.
The Christmas octave (eight days) includes the Nativity on December 25; Feast of St. Stephen, the first Martyr, on December 26, the day after Christmas; the Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, on December 27; the Feast of the Holy Innocents on December 28; and the Festival of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus on January 1.
Like the season of Lent, Advent provides the penitent a time of preparation for celebrating the fulfillment of the Father’s plan of salvation in the incarnation of His Son, Jesus. Though Advent is not as “deep” as the preparatory season of Lent, the Church does exercise some restraint in the Divine Service during Advent. In keeping with the tone of repentance, the Hymn of Praise/Gloria in Excelsis (the angel’s proclamation at the birth of Christ) is omitted from the Divine Service, even on the Sundays in Advent.
The traditional color of Advent, and that which still best fits the historic pericopes of Advent, is violet/purple, which is both the color of repentance and the royal color of the coming King. When possible, the paraments used in Advent should be different from those used in Lent, as the symbols used to express the character of the seasons are quite different. The only symbol common to both is the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God.
Since the adoption of Vatican II (1962-1965) reforms of the liturgy by much of the Western Church, the use of blue as the color of Advent has been adopted as well by many Lutheran congregations. Blue suggests the color of anticipation and hope and is also the color for the Virgin Mary traditionally wears in church art.
Another custom connected to the Advent season is the Advent wreath, which is an arrangement of four candles, originally used in home devotions to count the weeks of Advent and symbolize the approach of the Coming Jesus. The traditional Advent wreath featured white candles, but the custom of using seasonally colored candles has become common. If the paraments the church uses are violet/purple, then three violet/purple candles should be used, with a rose candle included as part of the set. The rose candle is placed in the Advent wreath at the three o’clock position, and the candles are then lit from week to week starting with the violet candle in the nine o’clock position. The rose candle is lit on Gaudete (“Rejoice”), the Third Sunday in Advent in the historic lectionary. While not as restrictive as Lent, Advent does call for some restraint in deference to the “tidings of great joy” that will be proclaimed on the Nativity and during the season of Christmas.
The Christmas season follows as the fulfillment of the Advent expectation. The long-expected first coming (the Nativity) and birth in Bethlehem is the promise and guarantee of the second and final coming on the Last Day. C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, said of Jesus’ birth, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”
Christmas is the celebration of the victory of the True Light born into the world dark in sin. God, Himself visits us in our darkness. Heaven and earth are to be renewed by God’s coming. The Gloria in Excelsis is the preferred Hymn of Praise. The restraint that characterized Advent is lifted. Second, only to Easter, Christmas is observed in great joy and with high celebration.
Pilgrim Ev. Lutheran Church will be having Advent service at 1 pm and 7 pm on the Thursdays of December leading up to Christmas, starting on Dec. 6. The theme this year is from a series from Concordia Publishing House entitled “What Child Is This?” If you don’t have a church home, we would love to have you join us as we prepare for the coming King.
God Bless and have a wonderful Christmas!!!
Rev. Joseph M. Fisher
Senior Pastor Pilgrim Ev. Lutheran Church
Please make note of our schedule for this Advent and Christmas season:
All Advent mid-week services will be on Thursday at 1 pm and 7 pm
The Sunday School program will be on December 16 at 4 pm
Christmas Eve December 24 will have a 6 pm service with communion and a 10 pm candlelight service of Lessons and Carols.
Christmas Day December 25, we will have a 9 am service.
On Thursday December 27 we will have our regular 7 pm services.
On Sunday December 30 we will have our regular 8 am and 10:30 am No Sunday School
New Year’s Eve December 31 we will have a 6 pm service.
New Year’s Day January 1 we will have a 9 am service.