Tag Archives: Advent

Advent: A time for anticipation, and patience

Today is the first day of the period known as “Advent”, a season observed by most Christians as a time of expectant waiting and preparation as we approach the celebration of Jesus’ birth at Christmas, as well as his return at the Second Coming.

Two popular songs from my lifetime often pop into my head when I think of Advent themes. “Anticipation” by Carly Simon and “Patience” by Guns N’ Roses.

No, they are not traditional Christmas songs. It is the themes which those two songs are built around that highlight this period in the church.

Anticipation…is keepin’ me waitin’“, as Simon sings in her 1971 song from the album of that same name.

The song opens with the lines: “We can never know about the days to come. But we think about them anyway.

This is entirely true when we consider that Advent is not only a lead-up to Christmas, but is also a time to reflect on and prepare for that return of Jesus at the end of time.

We don’t know when that time will come. A thousand years from now? A century? A decade? Next year? Maybe today.

What we do know is that He will come again. It is our job to be prepared for that time coming at any time.

As the Gunners 1989 song from their “G N’ R Lies” LP rolls towards it’s end, my favorite part of the tune plays out:

I’ve been walking the streets at night
Just trying to get it right
It’s hard to see with so many around
You know I don’t like being stuck in the crowd
And the streets don’t change but maybe the names
I ain’t got time for the game ’cause I need you
Yeah, yeah, but I need you…

Today’s world is more hectic than ever. The demand for immediacy and perfection is a major challenge to the happiness of many.

But consider the world before the last few decades. A time when there was no Internet. No cellphones. No cable television. Why, just a century ago there was no radio or television at all.

Those 100 years are nothing. A fraction of time when you consider that the United States has been a nation for 243 years now, and that mankind has been building civilizations for thousands of years.

The Jewish people have been known to history since at least 1,000 years before the birth of Christ. From the very beginnings, it was known that one day a savior or messiah would come to redeem and liberate the Jewish people.

These early Jews were the forerunners of today’s Christianity. As Christians, we believe that the Messiah came to the world as Jesus Christ.

But imagine being a Jew who was waiting for that messianic appearance. A thousand years. Generation up on generation lived and died knowing the time would come, hoping it might come in their time, yet never experiencing that appearance.

That is some patience.

During this time leading up to Christmas, many of you are going to feel rushed. You are going to feel pressured. You are going to feel overwhelmed. Shopping, decorating, parties, and more.

Stop. Breathe. Do not allow it to happen. Anticipate the coming of Christmas with joy in your heart, and do not ever allow commercialism to overtake that joy.

Have patience with crowds, with family, and most importantly with yourself. Keep things simple. You don’t need to be all things to all people. And you certainly don’t need to go into debt to make others happy.

The anticipation of the coming Christmas holiday comes natural to most of us. It is just as important that you prepare to exercise that quality of patience as well over these coming weeks.

 

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The Light that came into the world

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, that period where Christians the world over begin building up their enthusiasm towards the celebration of Jesus’ birthday at Christmas. It also marks the beginning of an official new year in the western Christian Church.

The name derives from the Latin word ‘adventus’, which means ‘coming’, and so during Advent we are anticipating the coming of the Lord. During Advent the Catholic Church expects that we will prepare ourselves “worthily” for Christ’s coming by making our souls “fitting abodes for our Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace”.

 It is a period of preparation for all Christians. We are to take this time to prepare our bodies and souls for Christ’s arrival.

For Catholics, this is an outstanding time to get back to the Sacrament of Penance. We should all set time aside to find out when our particular Church will be holding Penance services, and take the opportunity to cleanse ourselves of the sins that keep us from a fuller relationship with the Lord.

In some cases these sins and our inability or unwillingness to confront them are keeping us from the Church itself. Advent is the most appropriate time to set aside our egos and recognize that we are part of something bigger in the Church community.

The period of Advent last for approximately four weeks, and one of the traditions in the Catholic Church to mark the progression through this period is the Advent wreath.

At some unknown point in the Middle Ages, the Christians adopted an existing tradition of the Germanic peoples who lit candles within a wreath during the winter months as a sign of hope for warmer brighter days of spring to come.

For Christians, Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, chasing away the darkness of sin and radiating life and the love of God to all mankind. The wreath is made out of various evergreens, celebrating the continuous life.

The evergreens can be broken down further in symbolism: laurel signifying victory over persecution and suffering; pine, holly, and yew signifying immortality; and cedar signifying strength and healing. The prickly leaves of holly also remind us of Christ’s crown of thorns.

The wreath is round, symbolizing the eternity of God with no beginning and no end. Pine cones and nuts in the wreath symbolize life and resurrection. The wreath as a whole signifies our immortal soul promised everlasting life through Christ. The four candles in the wreath represent the four weeks of Advent, and each also represents a millennium in a 4,000 year period from the time of Adam and Eve up until the birth of our Saviour.

Three of the candles are purple in color, and one candle is rose colored. The purple candles signify prayer, penance, and sacrifices of good works that we undertake during Advent. The rose candle is not saved for the end, but is lit on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, representing that we are halfway through the period and are coming quickly towards the birth of Christ. One candle is lit each week as we celebrate a progressive expectant buildup towards this most joyfully wondrous time of the Christian year.

At home, we should light the candles on Sunday after saying a prayer before dinner. Traditionally the father will say the prayer this first Sunday, and the youngest child will light the first purple candle. On the 2nd Sunday, the father will say the prayer and the eldest child will light two purple candles. On the 3rd Sunday after the father says the prayer, the mother will light two purple and the rose candle. Finally on the 4th Sunday, the father will light all of the candles after praying.

The entirety of Advent and the tradition of the wreath are simply to strengthen our homes and our families in remembering the true meaning of Christmas. With all of the shopping, presents, music, food, and other secular distractions, we always need to remember that there is only one ‘reason for the season’.

While Santa, Rudolph, Frosty, the Grinch, Scrooge and other characters are fun and well worth adding to the joy of a child’s season, we always must remember to put the ultimate focus on why we celebrate to begin with. God is coming to live among us. He will be born to us in his Son, Jesus Christ, who will be born and live and ultimately die so that we may live in eternity.

There is no greater event in the history of mankind than the birth of Christ, for the saving sacrifice of His death and resurrection would not be possible without His joyful birth. Here in Advent, we look forward to the birth of Christ, the light that came into the world.

Goodbye again to ‘Ordinary Time’

The Church has divided her year into periods of time, and the most common of those is about to call it quits once again. ‘Ordinary Time’ occurs in 33-34 weeks each year, and will make its final appearance next Sunday, November 23rd.

Ordinary Time occurs just after Christmas season, and then again just after Easter. It covers a large period at the end of winter, through the entirety of spring and summer, and into mid-fall. It is the entirety of the year outside of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter.

The name of Ordinary Time does not denote that there is something less special, or in other words the common meaning that we give to the word ‘ordinary’. Instead it draws its name from the word ‘ordinal’, which means ‘numbered’, because the Sundays that make up Ordinary Time are indeed numbered.

During this time all the days, but especially the Sundays, are devoted to the mystery of Jesus Christ in every aspect of His existence. The first Ordinary period of a calendar year begins after Mass is said on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls the Sunday after the Epiphany. Thus the Mass on that day is said to be in Christmastide, but the Evening Prayers would fall in Ordinary Time.

This first period will then last until what has become commonly known as ‘Fat Tuesday’, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. At that point, Lent begins, and Ordinary Time will not return until Pentecost. When this second Ordinary period begins, it will then run right up until Advent.

During these Ordinary Time periods, the Church may indeed emphasize those ordinary aspects of Christ’s life. The teachings and verses of Scripture that cover his interactions with his family and friends, his day-to-day life and teachings, those things that occurred outside of his birth, death, and resurrection.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council closing in 1965, the Church called these periods of the year ‘Season after Epiphany’ and ‘Season after Pentecost’, and there remain some Anglicans and other groups who still recognize these older terms. But in the broader Church, a new Catholic Calendar was issued beginning in 1969, and the Ordinary Time designations have been used ever since.

So next Sunday you can go to Church and say goodbye to Ordinary Time. In so doing, you will also be anticipating one of the most joyful times of the year, what has become known even in the secular world as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. The following week, the first Sunday of Advent is observed, and we begin the run-up to the greatest event in the history of mankind, the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

NOTE: This is another in the ‘Sunday Sermon’ series which comes each Sunday. Simply click on that below Label to visit all of the previous entries in the Series.