Advent: Christmas Expectation
by Barbara Laufersweiler
of Faith at Home
The three to four weeks before Christmas
Day can be a very busy time of putting a lot of energy into our Christmas
activities. Many of us make or buy Christmas gifts, decorate our homes,
make special foods, and attend and throw parties in this short span of
Sometimes it can be frustrating, especially if we feel that the multitude
of things to do overwhelms the religious aspects of Christmas for
ourselves or our children. The pre-Christmas weeks have been a time of
preparation -- and midwinter a time of celebration -- for centuries,
though without the strong emphasis on gift-giving that we have now.
In the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Anglican, Lutheran, and similar
churches, the church year starts on the first day of Advent. The Christian
liturgical season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas
Day. This is a season, not of celebration, but of anticipation and
expectation, when we prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas.
Advent concerns three ways Christ comes to us: long ago, as God incarnate
in the newborn Jesus in Bethlehem; today, in our lives and our hearts, to
awaken us to Life; and someday, as Christ triumphant, redeeming the entire
world and bringing history to a close. You could say this is Christianity
in a nutshell!
For its three weeks or so, Advent is a time to "clear the decks"
of our homes and our hearts. As we put aside some of our normal activities
in order to prepare special foods and gifts, clean and decorate our homes,
and plan what Christmas church service to attend, we might also choose
some ways to prepare spiritually for Christmas... to focus on what makes
this such a special time of year.
Some people light Advent wreath candles with a prayer at dinnertime,
others listen to Advent music ("O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is a
truly ancient Advent song), still others simply take time for prayer or
quiet enjoyment of this time of Christmas preparation. We can savor our
preparations and look ahead to the wonderful celebration on its way.
After Advent comes the traditional Christmas season -- the festival
celebration of Christ's coming -- which begins at the stroke of midnight
on Christmas Eve and winds to a close on the twelfth day of Christmas,
January 5. Can you imagine 12 days of celebration rather than one? Now
that's more than worthy of weeks of anticipation!
Barbara Laufersweiler is an at-home mom, an Episcopalian, and the creator
of Faith at Home, http://www.faith-at-home.com,
a Web site offering help to parents as they explore and enjoy faith with
their children. Copyright © 2001 Barbara K. Laufersweiler. All rights
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