Advent. Retrieved 02:05, November 23, 2012, from http://www.kingofpeace.org/advent/advent.htm
Christmas has increasingly become a holiday cut off from its purpose of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is, therefore, important for Christians to recapture the season of Advent as a time for preparing for Christmas.
Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming." Advent begins the church year, starting four Sundays before Christmas. The season of Advent has been set aside as a time of preparation for Christmas since at least the last half of the 6th century. Advent is a time for self-examination and asking for forgiveness as the church is preparing for Christ’s Second Coming even as it prepares for Christmas. This is why the color of the season is purple (or sometimes blue), which is used for marking Lent, the season of self-examination preceding Easter. The third week in Advent is set aside as more celebratory than the others. Rose is the color of this week rather than purple to mark the week, which is why a rose candle is used in Advent wreaths.
An Advent Calendar
Another way to mark the days in Advent is to use an Advent calendar. These calendars usually have a door to open each night to reveal a picture or an object (such as a small toy or candy). The days of Advent vary each year, so store-bought Advent calendars usually have 24 doors, one for each day in December leading up to Christmas. Opening an Advent calendar may follow the Advent Wreath service to more closely tie the service itself to the countdown of days.
The Advent Wreath
The circle of the wreath and the evergreens that make it up both signify God’s endless mercy and undying love. Three purple candles and one rose-colored (pink) candle are evenly spaced around the wreath. There is one larger white candle in the center of the wreath. The wreath can be as simple as four candle holders with greenery laid around them to form a circle. However, some traditions attach meanings to using different greens, each signifying another aspect of the season. These include:
Ivy—to remind us of the human spirit clinging to God’s strength.
Cedar—to remind us of eternal life available to all through Christ.
Holly—to remind us of Jesus’ crown of thorns.
Bay—to remind us of victory over sin and death.
Each week, an additional candle is lit. As the light grows brighter, we are reminded that the Light of the World will soon arrive in glory. The central white candle is to be larger (often thicker) than the four in the wreath. This relatively recent addition to the Advent wreath signifies the Light of Christ and is first lit on Christmas Eve and relit burned on Christmas Day.
A Nativity Scene
A nativity scene (sometimes called a crèche), is yet another way to highlight the season of Advent. Instead of putting out the whole set at once, try building the scene slowly. Begin with the manger the first week. Add a few animals the second week. Then add Mary and Joseph on the third week. On Christmas Eve add the baby Jesus and any additional figures. The wise men and camels don’t arrive until Epiphany (January 6). This increases the feeling of anticipation that is Advent.
A Jesse Tree
The 11th chapter of Isaiah describes the ideal king in the line of Israel’s great king, David. The first verse of that chapter says,
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
Jesse was King David’s father. The image of a branch growing out of the roots of Jesse points to a new king in David’s line. Christians know that this is fulfilled in Jesus, the King of Kings, who is a descendent of Jesse. One tradition is to decorate a tree branch with symbols that remember other important persons from the Old Testament. The symbols on the "Jesse Tree" remind us that our belief grows out of deep roots of thousands of years of ancestors in the faith.
One way to create a Jesse Tree is to place a suitable tree branch in a large tin can (such as a coffee can) and anchor it with rocks. Then create the symbols on construction paper. Punch a hole in the paper ornament with a hole punch. Then attach the ornament to the tree branch with yarn. Creating a Jesse Tree can be connected to an Advent wreath service by adding a new ornament each evening at the time of the service.