THE SEASON OF ADVENT
By GEORGE MARTZEN
Church Year begins with Advent, a season of preparation for the
Lord's coming. The season consists of the four Sundays before
Christmas, either the last Sunday of November or the first Sunday
of December, concluding with Christmas Eve.
Similar to Lent, which leads up to Easter, Advent can be a season
of prayer and fasting for baptismal candidates. The tone of Advent
is one of longing and anticipation in the midst of suffering,
as related in the popular 12th Century hymn:
"O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear."
THEMES FOR THE SUNDAYS OF ADVENT
· 1st SUNDAY: CHRIST'S RETURN: For churches that
use a common lectionary, texts are read from scriptures that speak
of Christ's Second Coming in Final Victory. However, we stress
the implications of this hope for present living, not endless
speculations - "Be aware, Keep alert; for you do not know
when the time will come." (Mark 13:33 NRSV).
· 2nd SUNDAY: JOHN THE BAPTIST: The emphasis on
the role of John the Baptist, as the "voice of one crying
out in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord'."
(Matthew 3:3 NIV).
· 3rd SUNDAY: THE MESSAGE OF JOHN THE BAPTIST: John
the Baptist preached repentance in anticipation of the Messiah
(Christ): "Every tree that does not produce good fruit will
be cut down and thrown into the fire." (Luke 3:9 NIV). John
recognised that he was not even worthy to untie Christ's sandal
(John 1:20), for Christ would baptise "with the Holy Spirit
and fire".(Luke 3:16).
· 4th SUNDAY: FINAL EXPECTANCY: This Sunday emphasises
the final events before the coming of Jesus - Mary's conception
by the Holy Spirit and Joseph's dream (Matthew 1:18-24; Luke 1:26-38),
and the meeting between Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth, the mother
of John the Baptist (Luke 1:39-45).
ADVENT derives from the Latin word: adventus
which means "coming" or "approach".
Advent concludes with Christmas Eve, which is the 24th of December.
Traditionally it is a high holy night with midnight Christ Mass.
Most protestant churches hold special worship or evangelistic
services on Christmas Eve, featuring singing about the birth of
Jesus and messages of salvation through God's gift of himself
in Jesus Christ.
As with other seasons of the year, Advent is enriched by the many
layers of Christian tradition, symbolism and messages. Advent
is a season for:
· Preaching on Christ's second coming;
· Preaching on the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus'
· Preparing for Christ's spiritual coming into human hearts
and communities, symbolised by the birth of Jesus in a stable
feed-box in the midst of Roman occupied Palestine; and
· A time of increased charitable giving and volunteering.
For many Singapore Christians, Advent is a time for evangelism
with Christmas carolling and special events.
Churches frequently have Christmas pageants, musical or dramatic
re-enactments of the story of Christmas. While these special events
may be scheduled throughout Advent, the weekly gathering of believers
ought to be different than a gathering of shoppers. Pastors,
worship leaders and musicians should carefully choose hymns and
songs that compliment the tone of Advent: our need of a saviour,
anticipation of the Day of the Lord, repentance and holiness.
An example is Charles Wesley's Advent hymn: "Come, thou
long expected Jesus", first published in 1744, set to
Rowland Prichard's majestic Hyfrydol tune.
(just a few):
· Advent Wreath - Five candles, set in a circle
of four purple, or three purple and one rose colour, candles,
and central white one representing Christ. Traditional set in
an evergreen wreath.
· Chrismon Tree (evergreen tree covered with white
monograms of Christ).
· Jesse Tree (a tree with signs of the ancestors
DAY: The Nativity of our Lord
Singapore Christians join in the worldwide celebration of Jesus
Christ's birth, as told in the Bible. While not the oldest of
Christian holy days (Easter is the oldest), Christmas has become
probably the most widely recognised, because of the music and
cultural effects developed over the centuries.
Almost everyone has heard of Christmas trees, Santa Claus and
flying reindeer, even in the tropics. But who has heard of the
liberating acts of God initiated in the birth and life of Jesus
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke
both tell the story of Mary and Joseph, a simple Jewish couple,
who were engaged to be married. Both learned in separate visions
that she was to have a child by the Holy Spirit. However, when
she was almost ready to give birth, a decree went out from the
Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, to have census.
Being descended from King David, Mary and Joseph went to the original
city of David, Bethlehem, to be counted. However, because of
the crowded conditions of the city, they had no place to stay
except for a stable for the animals. Mary was forced to give birth
in a stable manger. She named him Jesus, or Yeshuah, meaning the
"LORD saves". The account continues that angels appeared
in the countryside, and with great fanfare directed poor shepherds
to come and see the new-born Christ child.
Some Protestants combine the events of Epiphany (the
manifestation of Christ) with Christmas, including the universal
sign of a star and the Magi (wise men, kings or astrologers from
the east) who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to
the baby Jesus and worshipped him in the manger.
Where does the name "Christmas"
In the early church, the Mass (communion)
for the Nativity of Christ was known as the Christ Mass.
· NATIVITY OF OUR LORD: Dec 25 -- Christmas Day.
Many churches have special events or worship on this day. For
others it is simply a day to be together with family.
· NEW YEAR'S EVE: Jan 1. Since the time of the
Wesleys, Methodists have held a watch night or Covenant Renewal
to bring in the New Year.
· EPIPHANY OF THE LORD: Jan 6. The word comes from
the Greek, epiphania, meaning "manifestation". It
is variously celebrated as the baptism of Jesus or the coming
o the Magi. In the Eastern Orthodox Churches and some Roman Catholic
Churches, Jan 6 is celebrated as Christmas.
MUSIC: Given the
example set by angels in the fields, Christmas has always been
a time of joyful music. From Vivaldi to Handel's Messiah to the
popular French carol, the angels' theme is found in a vast numbers
of musical settings: "Gloria in excelsis Deo"
- Glory to God in the highest! Felix Mendelssohn's festive setting
of Charles Wesley's "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"
is universally popular.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with th' angelic host proclaim,
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!"
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the new born King!"
· Christmas Star
· Christmas tree
· Nativity scene, in which the Magi are included on the
· Gold, frankincense and myrrh on Epiphany Day
The United Methodist Book of Worship
The online version of The Catholic Encyclopaedia, articles on:
· The Christian Calendar -- http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03158a.htm
· Advent -- http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01165a.htm
· Christmas -- http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm
· The Christian Resource Institute -- http://www.cresourcei.org/cyadvent.html
· Ken Collins Web Site -- http://www.kencollins.com/holy-01.htm
The Rev George Martzen is Minister Attached to the Bishop's