Welcoming the Season of Advent
Beginning with the first Sunday of Advent on 2nd December till the Sunday before Christmas Day, our sermons will be focusing on the season of Advent. Advent is a season of expectation and preparation, as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming (adventus) of Christ in his incarnation, and also looks ahead to his final advent as judge at the end of time. The readings and liturgies not only direct us towards Christ’s birth, they also challenge the modern reluctance to confront the theme of divine judgment.
The anticipation of Christmas under commercial pressure has also made it harder to sustain the appropriate level of alert watchfulness, but the fundamental Advent prayer remains ‘Maranatha’ – ‘Our Lord, come’ (1 Corinthians 16.22).
Purple is the traditional liturgical colour. In the northern hemisphere, the Advent season falls at the darkest time of the year, and the natural symbols of darkness and light are powerfully at work throughout Advent and Christmas. The lighting of candles on an Advent wreath is a common practice and helps families or the church to count down towards Christmas.
The First Sunday of Advent also starts the new liturgical year. The liturgical calendar of the Anglican Church enables us as a worshipping community to remember, appreciate and celebrate the entire life of Jesus Christ each year. The gospel is the central focus of the Christian calendar. It encompasses six major seasons, namely, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Trinity. The period stretching from Advent to Easter follows the life of Christ, with Pentecost concluding the Easter season seven weeks later. Between Pentecost and the next Advent is a long period called “ordinary time.” This is the "time of the church", where the church is reminded of her calling in the world, fulfilling the mission of God until the next season of Advent and Christmas, which “functions as the proclamation of the Parousia.”
Here in our Cathedral and Diocese, as it happens in other places outside the UK, we have adapted or contextualised some of these practices. As always, our liturgical practices will evolve, shaped by our local needs and customs, while trying to maintain some continuity with the past and our wider Communion.
Some comments on the collect for the first Sunday of Advent (front page of bulletin). Thomas Cranmer employs the splendidly effective imagery of darkness and light, coupled with Christ’s glorious return at the end of our time. This collect draws on similar phrases in the epistle from Romans 13, and anticipates also the gospel from Matthew 21 that describes Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem. This prayer encourages us to have a posture of both penitence and anticipation during this season.
Do keep a look out for the various events organised in the Cathedral and in our home groups (Connect Groups). There will be many opportunities to introduce someone to the message of Advent and Christmas.