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Advent This is a season of expectation, as the Church prepares for fours Sundays to celebrate the coming (Latin “adventus”) of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time. The readings, hymns, and liturgies not only direct us towards the celebration of Christ’s birth, but they also challenge our reluctance to confront the theme of divine judgement:
Lo! He comes with clouds descending, Once for favoured sinners slain; Thousand thousand saints attending Swell the triumph of His train: Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! God appears on earth to reign. - Charles Wesley
The characteristic note of Advent is therefore expectation. The anticipation of Christmas under commercial pressure has also made it harder to sustain the appropriate sense of alert watchfulness, but the fundamental Advent prayer remains ‘Maranatha’ – ‘Our Lord, come’ (1 Corinthians 16.22). Church decorations are simple and spare, no flowers are used, and purple is the traditional liturgical colour. The Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete or ‘Rose Sunday’) has been observed since medieval times with a splash of colour in the restrained atmosphere of Advent. The lighting of candles on the Advent Wreath, at Christingle services, and during “Carols by Candlelight” helps to focus on the coming of Jesus as the light of the World.
Christmas The celebration of Christ’s incarnation at Christmas is one of the two poles of the Christian year. The wonderful mystery of God’s dwelling among us in the fullness of humanity, as Emmanuel (God-with-us), foretold by the prophets and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, provides the material of the feast:
Salvation’s author, call to mind How, taking form of humankind, Born of a virgin undefiled, Thou in man’s flesh becam’st a child. - tr. J.M Neale
Christmas is much more then than just a joyful celebration of Jesus’ birth. The task of the Christmas liturgy is to recall us, amid all the joyful customs and celebrations of Christmas, to this central truth of the Word made flesh for our salvation. In the Church this holy season of Christmas is celebrated for twelve days (“The Twelve Days of Christmas”), beginning to count from 25 December and ending with the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January.