Christians await Christmas in Advent

Christians await Christmas in Advent

A Rajasthani damsel selling Christmas accessories at Hampankatta. Little far away in the midst of traffic waiting to be given the “Go” signal, I had spotted a male selling these accessories – perhaps related to the damsel on the footpath next to the Wenlock Hospital compound wall. On my way back, I saw Bondel Church filled with devotees doing their retreat –  to meditate and introspect on their past life, dump the bad baggage and change course on the way to a strait life. That set me thinking about Advent and provoked this piece.

Advent is the season when Christians wait in anticipation and hope for the coming of baby Jesus on Christmas Day, December 25. Advent is the beginning of the Church Year for most churches in the Western tradition. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). If Christmas Eve is a Sunday (as it is this year), it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve proper beginning at sundown. This year Advent began on December 4.

The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ in his first Advent. Advent also symbolises the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that he is present in the world today.

Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world.  Advent is a time of preparation that is marked by prayer. While Lent, period of 40 days before Good Friday when Christ was crucified, is characterised by fasting and a spirit of penitence, Advent’s prayers are prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers of submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers from those walking in darkness who are awaiting and anticipating a great light.

The coming of Jesus was foretold by John Baptist. (My name! Was he named after me?). All the evangelists (writers of New Testament of the Bible – Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) give similar account of his prophasy and are read out at Mass during Advent.

Here is Luke’s account (3- 2-6): ..”the word of God came to John (who) went into the region about the Jordan (river) preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words Isaiah the prophet,
The voice of one who is crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord, make his path straight.

Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight,
And the rough ways shall be made smooth;
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Coming to Lenten practices, in the olden days marriages were not held during Advent. It was not prohibited, but discouraged. Now for various reasons, marriages take place in Advent with permission of church authorities. This reflects the flexibility of church laws to suit the changing needs of the faithful.

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