The season of preparation

The season of preparation

The crush is on… everywhere you go there are Christmas decorations, piped-in songs and carols, and the endless push to spend, spend, spend. There is another way to mark this season. This little resource contains a couple of ideas as to how you might bring Advent home, so that when the great feast of Christmas arrives you’ll be able to welcome it with freshness, not with a sense of being exhausted by all the noise and clatter.

“The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised his baton. In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart…The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.”

Frederick Buechner

The Advent Wreath

The daily use of the Advent wreath can help to set this season apart from the rest of the year, and serve as a steady reminder that we don’t have to buy into all things associated with a heavily commercialized Christmas.

The Advent wreath comes to us from the Lutherans of northern Europe. While they have been using it in their shops and homes for the past several hundred years, it is only in the last fifty years that it has become a common tradition throughout the Christian Church. It usually consists of an evergreen wreath with four candles, one for each week of Advent. You can also use an artificial wreath, or simply four candles in ordinary candle holders.

While in Europe the candles are usually everyday red or yellow candles, when the wreath was taken into the church, initially they used one pink and three purple candles to match the liturgical colours of Advent. The pink candle was lit on the third Sunday of Advent, called “Gaudete Sunday” (meaning “joy”), after the opening sentence in the Latin liturgy for that day, while the purple candles were used for the other three Sundays. In recent years we have attempted to distinguish between the quiet observances of Advent and the more austere tone of Lent and so the use of blue is becoming more common as the liturgical colour for this season (leaving purple/violet for Lent).

You will now see blue Advent candles in common use for the wreath, but whatever colour(s) you choose will be the “correct ones” for your home, and will become part of your family’s tradition.

The Advent wreath is normally lit immediately before the evening meal each day, followed by the grace/blessing/thanksgiving for the meal. On the first Sunday of Advent and throughout the following week, one candle is lit, during the second week two candles are lit and so on, until the last week of Advent when all four candles are lit each night. (If you use small candles, it is advisable to have several replacements available as you will be burning one of them for the better part of four weeks). You may wish to incorporate a recent addition this practice by lighting a white candle set in the middle of the wreath on Christmas Day, representing “Christ, The Light of the World” coming into our midst on that first Christmas.

The Crèche

A crèche or manger scene can be assembled gradually over the season, which gives accent to the idea of preparation. It is a good thing to punctuate the building of the crèche with readings, beginning on the first Sunday in Advent with Luke 1:26-56.

Week 1 | Put out the stable with just the animals and the manger (if you have one from which the baby can be removed…). You can also place the shepherds and sheep in some out of the way place, signifying “the fields.”

Week 2 | Place the Mary and Joseph figures across the room; their journey has begun.

Week 3 | Move the Mary and Joseph to a place closer to the stable, leaving the shepherds in the fields.

Week 4 | Mary and Joseph are now in the stable with the animals, but there is no baby yet. Read Luke 2:1-5.

Christmas Eve | The baby is placed in the manger, and the shepherds are moved to the stable. Read Luke 2:6-20. You can also place the figures of the three magi somewhere else in the house… they’ve just seen the star, and begun the journey to Bethlehem.

During the 12 Days | Leave the family in the stable, but move the shepherds back to the fields. Bring the magi to a place closer to the stable.

Epiphany (January 6) | Bring the magi to the stable, and read Matthew 2:1-12.

Liturgies and gatherings for the season:

November 27 – 1st Sunday in Advent

  • 7pm liturgy
  • our new website launches!

December 4 – 2nd Sunday in Advent

  • 4pm and 7pm liturgies

December 9 – one of our monthly LivingRoom Liturgies; contact us for more info.

December 11 – 3rd Sunday in Advent

  • 7pm liturgy

December 13 – ideaExchange at Aqua Books, 7:30pm – Jamie Arpin-Ricci on The Cost of Community

December 16 – Don Amero and Jaylene Johnson in concert at the Ellice Theatre

December 17 – 7pm Hear the Silence for the season of Advent

December 18 – 4th Sunday in Advent

  • 4pm and 7pm liturgies

December 24 – 8pm Christmas Eve liturgy

December 25 – Merry Christmas! Enjoy the evening at home with friends and family.

January 1 – 2nd Sunday in Christmastide

  • 7pm liturgy

January 8 – The Feast of the Epiphany

  • 7pm liturgy

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