Advent: Christians enter season of anticipation, hope

Purple candle lit, sitting in evergreen wreath with other candles

An Advent wreath with one candle lit, representing the first Sunday of Advent. Photo by Stephen Little, courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 2: The season of Advent begins today for over a billion Western Christians, as the church enters a new liturgical year and begins the season whose lighted wreaths and prayers anticipate the birth of Jesus.

On each of the four Sundays leading to Christmas, Christians light a new candle on the Advent wreath: three purple, and one rose-colored one. The rose-colored candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday, and in some churches, a white pillar candle in the middle of the wreath is lit in Christmas Eve. (Note: In Protestant churches, Advent candles are often red, and in Anglican and Lutheran churches, they are typically blue.) Many congregations are draped in purple or blue, symbolizing hope and repentance. During Advent, Christians look to both Christ’s ancient birth and the Second Coming.

Note: Eastern Christians began the Nativity Fast—a strict, 40-day fast leading to the Nativity—on November 15.

Advent calendars have rapidly been gaining popularity in recent years, even amongst secular Christmas celebrants: Star Wars, candy-filled and even LEGO Advent calendars are filling store shelves in 2015. Still, traditionally faithful families may fashion their own Advent wreaths of evergreens and candles. Jesse Trees, used in many churches to provide necessary items for the needy during the season, have also been steadily gaining popularity.

Interested in making a DIY Advent wreath? Find information on making a base, candle-holders, greens and more at Catholic Culture.

Blessings for the Advent wreath can be found at the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Advent: Preparation for Christ’s coming begins for Western Christians

Wreath of greens with five lit candles, in building

An Advent wreath with all candles lit. Photo by Christine McIntosh, courtesy of Flickr

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3: Advent wreaths glow and the anticipation of Jesus’s birth begins as Western Christians around the world begin the season of Advent. In the four Sundays leading to Christmas, many Christians light a new candle upon the wreath. Often, these wreaths are a part of congregational worship during this season—but many families also make their own wreaths at home.

One unusual question in 2017 is: At what time of day will families light the fourth and fifth candles? That’s an issue because the final Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve this year. (This convergence will occur again in 2023.

Coming in 2018:
50th Anniversary of Apollo 8

Already, plans are being made to mark the 50th anniversary of the famous Christmas Eve message from the crew of Apollo 8, December 24, 1968.

Click the image to learn more about the historic reading.

A new book by Jeffrey Kluger, Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon, already has racked up more than 170 reviews on Amazon with an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars. The book’s Amazon description tells the story:

In August 1968, NASA made a bold decision, launching humankind’s first flight to the moon. Only the year before, three astronauts had burned to death in their spacecraft. President Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade seemed sure to be broken. But when Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders were summoned to a secret meeting and told of the dangerous mission, they instantly signed on. Then, on Christmas Eve, a nation that has suffered a horrendous year of assassinations and war is heartened by an inspiring message from the trio of astronauts in lunar orbit.

That “inspiring message”? On December 24, 1968, in what was the most watched television broadcast at the time, the crew of Apollo 8 read in turn from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the Moon. Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman recited Genesis chapter 1, verses 1 through 10, using the King James Version text.

THE MEANING OF ADVENT

For Western Christians, Advent focuses on both the ancient arrival of Jesus and the Second Coming; on both spiritual longing and alertness. Most churches are draped in purple and/or blue during the Advent season, representing penitence and hope.

Did you know? Eastern Christians began the Nativity Fast—the Eastern equivalent of the Western Advent—on November 15. The Nativity Fast lasts 40 days, and incorporates prayer and strict fasting.

Each Sunday during Advent, a new candle is lit on the Advent wreath. Typically, an Advent wreath is fashioned of evergreens and contains three purple candles and one rose one, with an optional white pillar candle at its center. The rose-colored candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday, and the white candle may be lit on Christmas Eve. (Tradition varies: in Protestant churches, candles are often red, and in Anglican and Lutheran churches, blue candles are common. Wikipedia has details.)

Origins of the Advent wreath are believed to be Germanic, though opinions vary. The wreath’s circular nature now represents the eternity of God, and the increasing glow of the candles symbolizes a people previously living in spiritual darkness and, at last, witnessing the coming of the Light of the World. Advent calendars and Jesse Trees have also gained popularity of use during this Christian season.

Make a DIY Advent wreath, with information on structuring a base, candle-holders, greens and decorations at Catholic Culture.

Create a chic Advent calendarno matter what your taste—with the multitude of ideas suggested by Martha Stewart. For European flair, check out the related article from the UK’s Daily Express.

Blessings for the Advent wreath, for a Christmas tree and more are at the official site for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Categories: Christian

Advent: Christians begin season of hope, anticipate birth of Christ

united-states-charlie-brown-christmas-stamp-2015 (2)

Have you seen the new Peanuts Christmas stamps?

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 29: Advent begins today for over a billion Western Christians, as the Church enters a new liturgical year and begins the season whose lighted wreaths and prayers anticipate the birth of Jesus.

LEGO-City-60099-Advent-Calendar-2015

ADVENT and POP CULTURE: While Advent wreaths are very popular with many religious families, pop culture has provided a host of other ways to mark the days until Christmas. In 2005, the LEGO company began issuing a series of annual Advent Calendars, featuring a host of mini-figures to assemble as time passes in December.

On each of the four Sundays leading to Christmas, Christians light a new candle on the Advent wreath: three purple, and one rose-colored one. The rose-colored candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete (rejoice) Sunday, and in some churches, a white pillar candle in the middle of the wreath is lit in Christmas Eve. (Note: In Protestant churches, Advent candles are often red, and in Anglican and Lutheran churches, they are typically blue.) Many congregations are draped in purple or blue, symbolizing hope and repentance. During Advent, Christians look to both Christ’s ancient birth and the Second Coming.

Note: Eastern Christians began the Nativity Fast—a strict, 40-day fast leading to the Nativity—on November 15.

Advent calendars have rapidly been gaining popularity in recent years, even amongst secular Christmas celebrants: Star Wars, candy-filled and even LEGO Advent calendars are filling store shelves in 2015. Still, traditionally faithful families may fashion their own Advent wreaths of evergreens and candles. Jesse Trees, used in many churches to provide necessary items for the needy during the season, have also been steadily gaining popularity.

Interested in making a DIY Advent wreath? Find information on making a base, candle-holders, greens and more at Catholic Culture.

Blessings for the Advent wreath can be found at the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

PEANUTS and CHRISTMAS

Charlie Brown Christmas stamps (1)

Click on the image to visit the US Postal Service website.

DECEMBER 9, 1965—Millions of Americans are celebrating the Golden Anniversary of the Peanuts Christmas special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, which debuted this week in 1965.

The TV special was a major cultural milestone—the first ever Peanuts TV special and a model for a host of other animated specials that followed it. The production broke so many accepted rules—including a decision to leave off the then-standard “laugh track”—that everyone involved with the special thought it would be a disaster. That is, until the show aired and half of all American TV viewers watched it! Reviewers crowed about its delightful innovations!

One decision that Charles Schulz and the producers felt would be controversial—and turned out to be very popular with viewers—was the decision to have Linus read from the King James Version of the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, verses 8 through 14. Contrary to some media reports about the program, today, biblical lines had appeared in other Christmas TV specials in that era. But a recent study of media in the mid-1960s concludes that such biblical lines were rare on network TV—and almost no one read as much as Linus delivered in his monologue from Luke. In Schulz’s version of the show’s history, he insisted that no other network TV cartoons had dared to include scripture, which appears to be accurate.

Honors for the pioneering TV special began in 1966, when A Charlie Brown Christmas was awarded the Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program. In accepting the gold-colored statuette, Schulz joked: “Charlie Brown is not used to winning, so we thank you.” The program was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” American sound recordings in 2012. Then, to mark the 50th anniversary, the US Postal Service issued a colorful set of “Forever” stamps celebrating the Christmas special.

 

POPE FRANCIS: ON WAR AND CHRISTMASTIME

At a time when the world is at war, the Catholic Church’s leader has stated that, “God weeps.” (The Telegraph reported.) While lights, parties, trees and nativity scenes are abundant, the Pontiff regards:

It’s all a charade. The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path. There are wars everywhere, and hate. We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. … War can be ‘justified’ for many reasons. But when the whole world is at war, as it is today … there is no justification.

 

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Categories: Christian