Sunday, November 27th, we will begin our celebration of the Advent Season. The first Sunday of Advent is always the Sunday which falls closest to November 30th. Our Advent Sundays are celebrated on the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. Celebrating Advent typically involves a season of prayer, possibly fasting and for sure repentance. This time of Advent is the time for anticipation of the coming hope and joy we find at Christmas. Many Christians celebrate Advent not only by thanking God for Christ’s first coming to earth as an infant, but also for his presence among us today through the Holy Spirit and in preparation and anticipation of his final coming at the end of the age.
The word Advent comes from the Latin term “adventus” meaning “arrival or coming, particularly the coming of something having great importance.” The Advent Season is both a time of joy-filled anticipation, the celebration of the arrival of Jesus Christ and a preparatory period of repentance, meditation, and penance. In the Methodist Denomination, we have for a long-time celebrated Advent for our founders. John and Charles Wesley saw it as a time for Christianity to devote special attention to Jesus Christ not only in his birth, that we celebrate on Christmas Day, but also preparing ourselves as Christians to walk with him. We are joined in the Advent celebration by our Christian sisters and brothers from the Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic churches. And increasingly, Evangelical Christian churches are recognizing the spiritual significance of Advent and have begun to revive the spirit of the season through serious reflection, joyful expectation, and observing traditional Advent customs. To the best of historical knowledge, Advent began about the fourth century with fasting and preparation for Epiphany, which celebrates the manifestation of Christ by remembering the visit of the Wisemen, and in some traditions, the baptism of Jesus. It is a time when we can focus on Christ’s incarnation, his baptism, and his life among us. By the sixth century, four Sundays had become the standard length of the Advent season with fasting and repentance. The early church also extended the meaning of Advent to include the coming of Christ through his birth in Bethlehem, his future coming at the end of time, and his presence among us as we experience the power of the Holy Spirit. Modern day Advent services include many symbols and customs such as lighting the Advent Candles that are surrounded in the Advent Wreath. These symbols and customs represent many of the faith traditions to us as Christians. Other symbols are nativity scenes, a Jesse Tree and other decorations that remind us of the birth of the Christ Child. Advent colors are purple, pink, and white. Purple symbolizes repentance and royalty. Pink represents joy and rejoicing. And white stands for purity and light.
In our modern-day Advent ceremonies as a worshiping community, we focus on Jesus’ birth as we prepare for Christmas morning when we celebrate Jesus’ birth, the King of Kings. At Claybanks UMC we will have a special Adult Sunday school during the Advent season. We can participate in Advent with special Advent devotionals, and we will light Advent Candles during our worship time. Special scripture readings will be a part of our worship experience along with an Advent Series of messages as we prepare for that one special moment that God breaks into history when Jesus is born and begins His reign on earth as in heaven. May we experience a joy during our Advent time as we prepare to celebrate our Christmas Eve Candlelight service and the birth of our Savior and His glory. Alleluia! His reign will have no end and He will reign here on earth as it is in heaven. Pastor Gary