Today is the first Sunday of Advent.
Even though work is busy and there is so much to do before Christmas holidays…
Even though Andrew is basically locked in the library writing papers and studying for exams…
Time slows right down at 5:30 when I’m walking home from the subway and it’s dark outside already and the shops are twinkling with Christmas lights and everyone is carrying bottles of wine, condo-sized Christmas trees and crates of Mandarin oranges (or, if you are the offspring of Dutch immigrants, mandarijntjes).
Yes, I did watch Love Actually once already this season, and yes, this song is obviously the sound track to that festive scene I just described …
If Love Actually taught us anything, it’s that Advent is the best time of year.
What is Advent?
Advent means the arrival of something or someone (i.e. the advent of the internet). For all of us, Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas) is a time of hope, reflection, joy and preparation as we move towards Christmas celebrations with our loved ones. For Christians, Advent is also the beginning of the Christian year, and a time of preparation for the arrival of Christ – both the baby Jesus version, and the second coming version.
*True Confession: It was only last year that I realized there was a second meaning to advent. I always thought it was about preparing for the arrival of the baby Jesus, and I thought… “Well that’s nice, but a bit sentimental since it already happened…”. Well, duh. Advent is also about preparing for the second arrival of Christ, and that is why we need to prepare…
The Book of Common Prayer (BCP) is what helped me understand the dual meaning of Advent (well, that and my dear husband, Andrew). The BCP has clarified a lot of things for me actually – more on that in this post.
Here is the BCP Collect (fancy word for collective prayer) for the first Sunday in Advent:
ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, now and ever. Amen.
Advent Wreath Making
Today, Andrew and I made an Advent wreath alongside about 40 other people after church. I had never heard of this festive tradition until coming to the Anglican Church, but it is without a doubt my new favourite thing to mark the Advent season.
In a nutshell, here is how wreath making goes:
- You gather around tables laid with fresh sprigs of pine, cedar and fir.
- It smells amazing.
- You weave those sprigs around a circular, metal frame that holds four candlesticks.
- Your hands get covered with sap and you feel inadequate about your crafting skills.
- Eventually your wreath starts to actually look lush and full – the first Christmas miracle of the season!
- You decorate your wreath with all kinds of shiny, glittery things – pinecones, stars, ornaments, berries – whatever.
- You stick in three purple candles and a pink one, and off you go to prepare for the coming of Christ.
The four candles in an Advent wreath count down the Sundays until Christmas. They symbolize Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. Every Sunday, you light another candle.
For real instructions on how to make an Advent wreath at home, Shannon has some quick and frugal tips.
First Sunday of Advent At-Home Service
Here is a point of departure for when you use your Advent wreath at home. There is no official service, so modifying prayers, adding hymns, carols or interpretive dances is completely up to you.
Light one purple candle
Read: Isaiah 60: 2 – 3
Leader: God inspired the prophets of old that they should foretell of the great promises of a Messiah. Many generations of people lived in expectation, hoping that this promise would be fulfilled in their day. We also live in anticipation, knowing that Jesus is coming.
All: Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
Leader: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.”
All: Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
Leader: Today, as we begin the Advent season, the Candle of Expectation is lighted. May it serve to remind us of God’s great promise to humankind.
Heavenly Father, help us to prepare our lives for the coming of your Son during this Advent season. In the name of Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.
Carol: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel