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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 time.

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!

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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 reserved.


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