Advent ushers in the most popular season of the year. Not the most important or the holiest to an observant Christian--that would be Easter--but perhaps the most anticipated. And it is just that, a season of anticipation. We are exhorted in church to repent, to prepare, to keep watch--not just for the memorial of Christ's birth but for His second coming in glory as well. We follow beloved old customs and blend in new ones as we watch and wait, as a family.
Hundreds and even thousands of years before Jesus the Messiah was born in Bethlehem,
God had spoken many prophecies about His coming.
He spoke them through men like Moses, David, Isaiah and Micah.
In order for Jesus to be the true Messiah, he had to fulfill every prophecy
ever spoken or written. And He did!
Here are just a few:
He would be born of a Virgin (Micah 5:2), and He was (Matthew 2:1-6).
He would be born in Bethlehem (Isaiah 7:14),
and He was (Matthew 1:18-25).
He would sojourn in Egypt (Hosea 11:1).
and He did (Matthew 2:15).
He would heal the sick and make people whole (Isaiah 53)
and He did (Matthew 8).
He would be crucified (Psalm 22:14-17),
and He was (Matthew 27:31).
He would die for our sins (Isaiah 53),
and he did (John 1:29, John 11:49-52).
He would be raised from the dead (Psalm 16:10)
and He was (Matthew 28:1-10).
And as Christ came the first time,
He will come again! (Acts of the Apostles, 1:11)
(You may download a large print copy of "Prophecies Fulfilled" on our Downloads Page)
O Come, O Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine advent here;
And drive away the shades of night
And pierce the clouds and bring us light.
--- from "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," ninth century carol
The word advent derives from the Latin word adventus, which means "coming." The Incarnation of Jesus was His coming to us, as his second coming at the end-times also will be. Traditions that have withstood the test of time combine our need to reflect and pray with our mounting sense of joy:
One of the most popular of Advent traditions is the Advent Wreath, a custom that originated with Lutherans in the 16th Century. We see them in our churches, and we enjoy them in our homes. The wreath, a symbol of victory and glory, is made of evergreens and four candles, one for each week of Advent. Usually three of the candles are purple or violet, and one--lit on the third Sunday--is rose. The colors come from those traditionally used in church vestments, purple for a penitential spirit, rose for Gaudete ("Rejoice!") Sunday. After the wreath is blessed on the first Sunday and a prayer is said, the first candle is lit. The second Sunday, after a prayer two candles are lit. And so the little ceremony proceeds, a beautiful expression of hope as light increases, pushing away darkness. You may download a Blessing for the Advent Wreath above, and follow that blessing with a prayer from the heart.
Children in particular love an Advent Calendar. Those available commercially (Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan, "The World's Largest Christmas Store," has a huge selection, as does The Christmas Sleigh in Middleburg, Virginia) are usually made of paper or cardboard, with a "window" to open each day that reveals a spiritual message and sometimes a candy. Permanent, wooden calendars can be kept from year to year. You can make your own Advent Calendar by marking personal reminders to read Scripture or pray or do an act of charity. And the Jacquie Lawson website has magical animated Advent Calendars for the technically inclined.
The Jesse Tree, named after the father of David, represents Christ's Judaic heritage. Symbols representing the ancestors of Jesus, by bloodline or by faith, are gradually added to the tree as Advent progresses toward Christmas. Wikipedia has an excellent, informative article that includes depictions of The Tree of Jesse in art and architecture throughout the ages. There are several online resources for making your own Jesse Tree, and one of the best is found in FamilyMagazine from the Catholic Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania, where you can download ornament patterns.
In some households the manger in the stable or "cave" of their Nativity Scene is set up at the beginning of Advent for the anticipated arrival of the Holy Family. Children may add a piece of straw to the manger each day for every good deed done, and may add something else to the scene each Sunday, such as an animal figure or tree. Mary and Joseph arrive, of course, on Christmas Eve, and the Christ Child on Christmas morning. Again, Bronner's in Michigan and The Christmas Sleigh in Virginia have a fine assortment of stables, figures, scenery and accessories.
LasPosadas (Spanish for "the inns") is a community custom that originated in Spain and is celebrated by many people of Hispanic heritage throughout the world, from December 16th through December 24th--nine days that symbolize the nine months Mary carried Jesus in her womb as well as the trials she and Joseph endured before finding a place where the Babe could be born. Every home in the community has a Nativity scene, and the hosts of the Posada act as "innkeepers." Neighbors, adults and children, are "pilgrims" who go from house to house requesting lodging and singing a song about the peregrinos (pilgrims). All the pilgrims carry small lit candles; an angel, first in the procession, has a candle within a paper shade. Nativity figures of Mary, Joseph and the donkey are carried at the head of the procession (or at times are portrayed by pilgrims in costume, with an expectant mother as Mary riding a live burro). The pilgrims are turned away, also in song, from door after door, until the weary travelers arrive at the "inn" where Mary and Joseph are welcomed. Everyone enters to pray at the Nativity scene; then the guests enjoy a party with carols and food and a piñata for the children in the shape of a Christmas star. Often the Posada on Christmas Eve ends at a church, in time for Midnight Mass.
CONTENT COPYRIGHT DONNA LEE DAVIS, 2004 - 2018. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Part of the Nativity Scene at
St. Mary of the Immaculate
Conception Catholic Church,
in Fredericksburg, Virginia
The Advent Wreath
"Green grow'th the holly, so doth the ivy.
The God of Life can never die; hope! saith the holly!"
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