Once again, Cyber Monday collides with the first week of the Advent Christmas Season reminding many to stop and reflect instead of reaching for the credit card . With only twenty-one shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the onslaught of marketing emails and ads have created a nervous frenzy that has nothing to do with traditional holiday activities like baking, decorating, or packing for a family vacation. Instead, it’s all about the presents.
Advent is All About ‘The Present’
Beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, churches light the first of four candles to begin the journey toward December 25. Each week a different them helps the congregation focus on one aspect of preparing for Christ’s birth. Although many Protestant denominations today celebrate this Advent ritual, it’s unlikely our Baptist ancestors would have practiced much about this more Roman Catholic tradition. The beginning of Advent also marks the start of a new church year for Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Moravians, Presbyterians, and Methodists. I suppose my grandparent’s Nebraska Lutheran church may have celebrated this tradition as well. Another connection to the past.
The Four Weeks of Advent
Liturgical colors shift to purple (Catholic) and Blue (Lutheran) as the first purple candle is lit to signify Hope. Each week another candle is lit, so that by Christmas Day all four are burning.
- first week, violet: hope
- second week, violet: peace
- third week, rose: love
- fourth week, violet: joy
Some traditions add a white candle in the center, or vary the focus of each week’s prayers and reflections. And like many faith traditions, the Advent wreath with its evergreen circle and candles of light may have roots in older folk rituals to harken the return of spring in the midst of a cold, dark winter.
Our Family Advent Traditions
We didn’t celebrate the Advent wreath or candles when I was young, and I didn’t really discover Advent calendars until I learned German and spent a college semester in Heidelberg. My husband’s Catholic family had lived in post-war Germany, and beautiful glitter-decorated Advent calendars were popular gifts to our sons each year. My mother-in-law was famous for her Christmas card collage creations using re-purposed German Advent calendars.
As I unpack the felt Advent calendar handmade by my sister-in-law many years ago and unwrap the cellophane from the version hiding chocolates behind each numbered door, I find that I’m not only preparing and anticipating the joy of Christmas, but I’m also celebrating the memories of past seasons. This season of Advent holds it all: Past, Present, and Future.
Read More about Advent Traditions
Sacred Space, from the Irish Jesuits, my personal favorite
Advent 2014 – Roman Catholic