Can't tell you how many times I heard on the radio today that "the Christmas season has officially begun."
One would be hard pressed to find a clearer indication that in American culture, Christmas is intimately linked, even identified, with shopping for gifts and decorating homes, inside and out. There are still plenty of Thanksgiving leftovers but the tree is up, decorated and the the lights ON!
Online, especially on FaceBook, I've seen a trend this year of folks taking deep pride in statements announcing, "I absolutely refuse to do Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving!"
So, here's a brief refresher on the whole beautiful season that comes between Thanksgiving and Christmas: Advent!
In 490, Bishop Perpetuus of Tours officially declared Advent a penitential season in the Frankish Church of Western Europe, ordering a fast on three days of every week from November 11 (the feast of St. Martin of Tours) till Christmas. This forty days' fast, similar to Lent, was known as St. Martin's Lent. The readings for the Masses in this season were actually taken from the liturgies of the Lenten season.
By contrast, the Advent season of the Roman liturgy, developing a century after that of the Frankish Church, was a non-penitential, festive and joyful time of preparation for Christmas. When the Church unified the liturgical season, the non-penitential nature of the Roman Advent conflicted with the longer and penitential Gallic Advent. By the thirteenth century a compromise was reached, which combined the fasting and penitential character of the Gallic observance with the Mass texts and shorter four-week cycle of the Roman Advent liturgy. The liturgy of Advent remained substantially unaltered until Vatican II mandated a few minor changes to more clearly delineate the spirit of the Lenten and Advent seasons.
- Jennifer MillerTake a look at the pie chart at the top of this post to see where Advent fits on the liturgical calendar.
We all do fairly well with the joyful expectation of Advent - its the penitential preparation of our hearts for celebrating Christmas that needs greater attention.
One of the best ways to understand Advent is to survey the scripture readings for the season: not a hint of holly, not a mention of mistletoe!
At the US Bishops site you'll find the scriptures for the Sundays of Advent (First, Second, Third, and Fourth). Take a look and ask yourself, "Where is the Word taking us in Advent? For what, for whom are we preparing? What's Christmas all about?"
I've already posted a link to this Sunday's scriptures and commentary on them. Kick off Advent 2014 with some time spent reading over this coming Sunday's readings.
Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments