Advent season begins, and it’s not just preparing for Christmas

The Advent candles in place at Trinity Lutheran Church in Jamestown, N.D., with one purple candle for each week of Advent, and the white candle in the center to announce the birth of Jesus on Christmas. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — For many Christians, the Advent season is preparation for Christmas, but area clerics say the four-week calendar of reflection, repentance and prayer is also in preparation for the second coming of Christ.

The Advent calendar for 2018 starts this Sunday, Dec. 2, and concludes on Dec. 24.

“For the Catholic Church, Advent marks the beginning of the liturgical year,” says Monsignor Jeffrey Wald, pastor of St. James Basilica in Jamestown.

The Catholic Church splits Advent into two sections, with two weeks focusing on the second coming of Christ in glory at the end time amid the clouds, according to scripture, he said. Then, two weeks focus on salvation and looking forward to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, he said.

Advent helps to prepare not only to celebrate a day, Wald says, but the reality of the coming of the Lord, his birth and our salvation. Advent is looking forward to the second coming of Christ and our destiny of eternal life in heaven, he says.

“Advent is not preparing for one day and moving on,” Wald says. “This is a lesson in which to live our lives.”

The Advent candles in place at Trinity Lutheran Church in Jamestown, N.D. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service

The life of Jesus is somewhat treated like looking through an old photo album, he says. His life is about the mercy of God and his great love for us and our destiny through baptism.

“It is the way of life for us and our own destiny and the great love that God the father has to send his only son to give his life for us,” Wald said.

To visualize this preparation, priests wear purple or violet vestments instead of ordinary green vestments. Four violet candles represent each Sunday of Advent.

The priests wear white and gold vestments in celebration on Christmas, and a fifth white candle is lit to announce the birth of Jesus.

The Rev. Kristi Weber, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Jamestown, says parishioners are incorporating Advent into social media by writing reflections to be sent out as email devotions or Facebook. Others are providing Sunday morning testimonials on the theme of making room for Jesus, she says.

Advent is getting together with friends and family for some, while for others it includes setting up a Nativity scene in the home to remind them of the birth of Jesus, she says. Others light Advent candles at mealtime or an follow an Advent calendar.

“In making room for Jesus, it opens our hearts to be ready to hear the good news that Jesus was born into the world,” Weber says. “Advent is to show us new life and to show us God’s mercy and to show us God’s forgiveness and grace.”

The Rev. Martin Nussbaum, pastor of Zion United Church of Christ in Medina, N.D., said Advent is central to preparing for the coming of Christ.

“I don't think every Christian recognizes that,” Nussbaum says. “I remind people each year that the first week of Advent is actually our New Year.”

The month of December is the journey of Advent, he says, and is about responding to the light of Christ and learning to live with Christ as king and sovereign.

Pastor James Venegas of the Seventh Day Adventist church in Jamestown says his church does not follow the Advent calendar, but there is no opposition to it. The sermons are consistent with the arrival of Christ fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament.

“All happened as God predicted and we believe we will see him again,” Venegas says. “We certainly uplift the birth of Christ and celebrate the meaning that comes with it.”