"Come let us go up to the mountains of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." (Isaiah 7:3a)
This coming Sunday is Advent Sunday. “Advent” is a rather odd word; you don’t often hear it in everyday conversation. Some may use it to mean “onset,” as in the advent of an illness. Others know it only as an adjective before the word “calendar” during the holiday season.
However, for Christians, Advent means much more.
The English word “advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus”, which means “coming” or “visit.” The season of Advent is a time when Christians focus on the coming of Christ, whose birth we celebrate in December.
Christians observe Advent as a season of the church or liturgical year. This “year” includes the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, Ordinary Time and other holy days.
The Bible doesn’t prescribe these liturgical seasons but Christians have been observing them as part of church tradition for centuries, beginning in the sixth or seventh centuries AD. The church year is shaped by the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, especially his birth, death and resurrection.
Many churches begin the Advent season by displaying an evergreen wreath with five candles - often four of the same size and one larger candle. Each of the four candles, typically placed around the circumference of the wreath, commemorates themes of Advent related to expectation, hope, love or joy. The fifth candle represents Christ and is usually placed in the centre of the wreath. Every Sunday of Advent, the church lights one of the smaller (usually purple in colour) candles before lighting the final candle (a white one) - the Christ candle - on Christmas Day.
If the church you attend observes Advent, pay careful attention to its themes within your own worship tradition. Even if your church does not formally observe Advent, you may hear its themes echoed in the music of the season, perhaps through hymns like “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” or “Joy to the World.”
Advent is meant to help us remember our need and longing for the Light of the World, the Saviour who is Christ the Lord. For “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah)
Weekend Worship will be held in St Luke’s Chapel this coming Sunday, 1 December, between 5.30 pm and 6.00 pm. Everyone is invited to come along and we look forward to welcoming you.
Ft. Iain Furby