Advent a season of joy, preparation for Christians
For area Christians of some denominations, Advent is a season of waiting, hoping and quiet celebration.
The four-week season that starts the liturgical year anticipates the coming of Christ, both the birth of the Christian savior and his predicted second coming.
Catholics and Protestants mark Advent on four Sundays before Christmas, when they hang greenery, light Advent candles and often decorate the sanctuary with purple or blue.
“When we get close to Christmas, we put the red ribbons on” the greenery, said the Rev. Dominic Ingemie, pastor of the Church of Saint Peter on Broadway in Saratoga Springs.
During the first part of Advent, these Christians look forward to the second coming of Christ; in the second part, they prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth.
“Advent’s a time of preparing our hearts for the Lord,” said the Rev. Jeff Silvernail, senior pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Clifton Park.
Unlike the penitent season of Lent, Advent is more hopeful.
“Advent has a penitential dimension, but [Advent is] more the joy of waiting,” Ingemie said.
Churches mark the season with rituals at church, and Christians can carry it on at home also.
Some churches light Advent candles each of the four Sundays as part of that week’s service.
“One [additional] candle is lit for each week of Advent,” Ingemie said. “We do this in church, and we also encourage families to do it at home.”
At home, a family might light the candles each evening, adding a candle each week until there are four lit.
Silvernail said the season of Advent is personally meaningful to him as the days get darker in December.
“The idea that even in these darkest days, the idea that we’re lighting candles and we’re doing so in hope is something that speaks very deeply to me,” he said.
People say special prayers or blessings during the season, and St. Peter’s distributes these for church and home use.
“Certain prayers go with Scripture readings for that Sunday,” Ingemie said.
Also, the church offers parishioners a “Little Blue Book” with a special prayer for each day of Advent. The booklets are popular and are set out before the season starts.
“This is very, very big here at Saint Peter’s,” Ingemie said of the booklets. “I think we put out about 500 of them, and they’re all gone.”
The Catholic church also celebrates special Masses during Advent: the Feast of Immaculate Conception and the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Some Christians use an Advent calendar, which provides a verse of Scripture or tells another piece of the Christmas story each day of the season.
“It’s probably more common among children,” Silvernail said, but added that some adults use the calendars, too.
“Many people use that as a time of special devotions,” he said.
Giving is important in many churches during Advent.
The Church of Saint Peter puts up a giving tree each year with tags posted with gift requests from needy families, and parishioners can donate gifts.
“A lot of parishes do this,” Ingemie said.
Prince of Peace congregants take part in the “Advent Conspiracy” movement, which encourages more worshipping, less spending, more charitable giving and more love.
“At Christmas we tend to be so much about the materialism,” Silvernail said.
The Lutheran Church in Clifton Park combines Advent traditions with modern life with a Wednesday evening “Time out with God” service each week during Advent.
“The season leading up to Christmas is so busy, so hectic,” Silvernail said.