Christians like all human beings, are deeply affected by the rhythm of the calendar. The times and seasons have a profound influence on their businesses and social lives. Included in these festivals are the seasons of the Church. The familiar readings from the Bible, the hymns, national customs, legends, and family traditions associated with them combine to paint some of their most cherished memories.
That which Christians refer to as the “Church Year” begins four Sundays before Christmas (December 25). This is the season of Advent which is the time for the believer to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child into the world. Christmas, with all its pageantry and gala celebration, is a time when Christians rejoice at the birth of the one whom they acvept as God’s Son—Jesus. So, let’s look at some of those traditions...
Why Do Christians Celebrate Advent?
In celebrating a four-week period prior to December 25 of preparing ourselves for Jesus coming into this world, we realize the word advent is a Latin term meaning “coming” or “arrival.” The season reflects this emphasis through two but separate related themes:
- The coming of Christ into the world as a baby in Bethlehem.
- The second coming of Christ into the world on the Day of Judgement.
During Advent, the Christian community shares in singing traditional hymns, such as “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Some congregations conduct special midweek church services to mark the season. Originally Advent, was of undetermined length. In the Early Church it was primarily a period of fasting and worship for those who were scheduled to be baptized on Epiphany (January 6). Centuries later, it developed into the current four-week observance.
Advent took on a somber character in the eleventh century at the urging of Pope Gregory VII. Marriages were prohibited, and joyous celebrations were kept to a minimum. Today however, Christians reflect a joyful anticipation for the birth of the Christ child.
Fr Rick Gariepy