Manual Let Us Keep The Feast: living the Church Year at home (Advent and Christmas)

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Advent is also known as the Nativity Fast in Orthodox Christianity. Advent is primarily observed in Christian churches that follow an ecclesiastical calendar of liturgical seasons to determine feasts, memorials, fasts and holy days :. Today, however, more and more Protestant and Evangelical Christians are recognizing the spiritual significance of Advent, and have begun to revive the spirit of the season through serious reflection, joyful expectation, and even through the observance of some of the traditional Advent customs.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia , Advent began sometime after the 4th century as a time of preparation for Epiphany , and not in anticipation of Christmas. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Christ by remembering the visit of the wise men and, in some traditions, the Baptism of Jesus.

At this time new Christians were baptized and received into the faith, and so the early church instituted a day period of fasting and repentance.

Living the Liturgical Calendar: The Wonderful Waiting of Advent

Later, in the 6th century, St. Gregory the Great was the first to associate this season of Advent with the coming of Christ. Originally it was not the coming of the Christ-child that was anticipated, but the Second Coming of Christ. By the Middle Ages, the church had extended the celebration of Advent to include the coming of Christ through his birth in Bethlehem, his future coming at the end of time, and his presence among us through the promised Holy Spirit.

Modern-day Advent services include symbolic customs related to all three of these "advents" of Christ. For more about the origins of Advent, see the History of Christmas. Many different variations and interpretations of Advent customs exist today, depending on the denomination and the type of service being observed. Some Christians choose to incorporate Advent activities into their family holiday traditions, even when their church does not formally recognize a season of Advent. They do this as a way of keeping Christ at the center of their Christmas celebrations. We hope these ideas might inspire you as you prepare your own homes and families for the season.

Why Do Christians Celebrate Advent?

One of the things that I particularly like about Advent is beginning a new church year, when we return to the starting point of our liturgical cycle. We await the birth of Jesus, but we also have a fresh beginning. The frenetic Deck-the-Halls mode of our culture at this time of year can feel both excessive and rather empty. Partly for that reason, I have moved toward a quieter Advent in recent years. To that end, I have been trying to surround myself with symbols that remind me of inward or spiritual realities, things that can simply be present as I am going about my daily routines — without creating pressure to conjure feelings of amazement, gravity, or magic for the season.

My rule of thumb for these practices is that it has to feel delightful or life-giving: No matter how fun something seems in theory, if it feels overwhelming in any way, then I try to hold off on doing it until some other year. After all, part of the goal is to make things less busy and less frantic as we draw near to God, not to add to the froth. I also try not to do too many things; I find it helpful to do a few things that I can focus on each year, but not every idea at once on any given year. For the last several years, I have had a progressive creche, or nativity, in my living room.

I start with an empty stable and manger at the beginning of Advent. Then each day or week, I add a few figures: animals, shepherds, angels…midwives. Usually I try to integrate adding the new figures into my prayer time that day; for example, I include some nativity figures that represent people I regularly pray for, such as my niece and my goddaughter, as a way to bring them into my waiting for the arrival of Jesus. I like this nonverbal way of waiting upon God for them. Sometimes I add a figure that represents a quality I want God to cultivate in me.

On Dec. Then baby Jesus is placed in the manger on Christmas Eve, either at bedtime or at midnight. The Magi and their camels begin their journey on the bureau in my back bedroom, and I slowly move them closer during Advent until they arrive at the stable in my living room on Epiphany, Jan.

December 6th: St. Nicholas

The whole process is so easy to do, and I get a real kick out of doing it; I love seeing the slow motion drama unfold every time I walk by. Another little joy I did last year was to plant an amaryllis bulb in my kitchen.

Prepare for the Coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas

I put it in a clear glass hurricane vase so that I could see the layers of dirt and plant while I was sitting at my kitchen table. She had to share this, share Him, with the world. That was her great vocation in life, and, folks, that is our vocation, too. Just as we are challenged to be Elizabeth, seeing Christ in others and welcoming Him, we are challenged to be Mary, carrying Jesus to a waiting world. Your email address will not be published.

Liturgical year - Wikipedia

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