Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, December 8, 2019
The Season of Advent
The season of Advent is the season that precedes Christmas. It always has four Sundays. The first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday nearest to the feast day of St. Andrew, which falls on November 30. Gauging the start of Advent by the feast of St. Andrew’s helps to maintain four Sundays for Advent. If St. Andrew’s Day, November 30, falls on a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, then the last Sunday of November becomes the first Sunday of Advent. For example, November 30, 2014, was on a Sunday; November 30, 2015, was on a Monday; November 30, 2010, was on a Tuesday. So in those years, the first Sunday of Advent was the last Sunday of November. And when November 30 falls on a Wednesday, Christmas falls on a Sunday in that year. So it was in the year 2016 and will be in 2022.
The color for Advent is either purple or blue. That means the holy table will be adorned in either of those colors, and the ministers will adorn stalls in the same colors. There may also be purple or blue objects around the sanctuary. Purple is associated with royalty and symbolizes nobility, luxury, and power. Blue is associated with stability and depth and symbolizes faith, truth, and heaven.
Advent is the season of preparation for the coming of the Messiah whom the Old Testament Scriptures promised to come. We await his birth, but because his birth is a past occurrence, 2000 years ago, in Advent we also anticipate the King’s second coming and celebrate the fact that it will occur. The season of Advent is a time of inward-looking in repentance. It is a time of contemplation, watching, slowing down, and waiting. We are encouraged in this season to ask ourselves some questions: how is my spiritual climate? Am I hot or cold or lukewarm? Am I practicing disciplines that help me to grow in my love for the Lord? Which disciplines speak to my deep soul? How am I doing with Bible reading and personal prayer, and more? The idea is to bring ourselves back on track or to increase our intensity in what we are doing to help ourselves grow deeper in the things of God.
In the St. Peter’s sanctuary, near the holy table, there will be a wreath laid flat on a table by the lectern, all through Advent. The wreath is made of an evergreen circle with four candles around it forming a square, and one in the center of it. The four candles that form a square are purple or blue in color and the one in the center is white, the Christ candle. The third of the outer candles is pink. The evergreen circle reminds us of the eternal and ever-renewing promises of Christ, the steadfast love of the Lord that never ceases, and his mercies that never come to an end. They are new every morning, so says Lamentations 3:22-23. Take time to gaze at the evergreen circle and be lost in wonder at God’s constant goodness to you in spite of you, and fall down in worship of him.
Every Sunday one more candle is lit. That means that on Advent I one candle will be lit. On Advent II, two candles will be lit, on Advent III three candles will be lit, and on Advent IV, four candles will be lit. The symbolism of the increasing light Sunday by Sunday, or call it week by week, is the call to deepen our preparation to receive the savior. The light will burst out on Christmas Eve when the Christ will be born and the white Christ Candle will be lit.
The first Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Hope, the second is the Sunday of Peace, the third the Sunday of Joy, and the fourth the Sunday of Love. The third Sunday of Advent is represented by a pink candle because pink is the liturgical color for joy. In ordinary life, pink symbolizes tenderness, sweetness, romance, niceness, flowers, charm, and more. The joy of the third Sunday of Advent calls us to remind ourselves of the joy the world was called to experience at the birth of Jesus, joy to the world the Lord is come. In Luke 2:10, the angel told the shepherds, “…Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people” (ESV).