Advent begins 4 Sundays before Christmas and lasts until Christmas.

Happy New Year! No, we've not lost the plot! Advent really is the beginning of the Christian year. The word "Advent" means "Coming". It starts four Sundays before Christmas, as we begin to tell the story of the coming of Jesus into the world.

Advent is a thoughtful time of year, when we are encouraged to reflect on the state of our world and the frailty of human life. We think about our own mortality, and acknowledge that one day we may be called to account for how we have lived our lives. These rather heavy themes of death and judgement are not meant to be scary, but to remind us of the reality of our world and human existence. Throughout Advent there is also a sense of hope and expectation - that God will come and be with his people.

Although the commercial world seems to skip Advent and starts promoting Christmas from the middle of the autumn, for Christians Advent is important. It is a chance to think seriously before the joyful celebration of Christmas. If we observe Advent quietly and thoughtfully, then Christmas is all the more joyful when it finally arrives. Advent candles and calendars help us to count the days patiently and to think about the importance of preparing our hearts and lives to receive once again the Christ-child at Christmas.

The colour for Advent is purple, or sometimes blue, reflecting the solemn feeling of the season. It's best if we can save our Christmas decorations for the time closer to Christmas, although decorating the church with evergreens reminds us of the everlasting love of God. There are some great Advent hymns to sing before we launch into the more familiar Christmas Carols at the end of the season!

Many people use Advent Calendars or candles. The custom of Advent calendars seems to have begun in the 19th century in Germany, where Lutheran Christians used to count down the days to Christmas by putting chalk marks on their doorposts or lighting candles. Traditionally they depicted the Christmas story or St Nicholas or winter scenes, and as each little window was opened a religious text or picture was revealed to help Christians with their prayers during the four weeks of Advent.

This Advent, why not think of a different way of counting down to Christmas? How about giving a donation you can afford each day (or each week) to a charity of your choice? It doesn't have to be money - a tin or packet from your store cupboard each day would produce a good box of groceries for the Food Bank by Christmas Day. Or try to do a kindness to someone else each day of Advent? Or light a candle each day and think about someone else for ten minutes? Or take out with you a bag of sweets and share them with people you meet? I'm sure you could come up with even better ideas. When Christmas comes, you will have helped in some small way to make the world a better place.

Why Pink?

You're probably wondering why the third candle in the Advent Wreath is rose pink and not purple. This is because we are about halfway through Advent, the season of preparation for Christmas, and if we have been keeping a solemn season of prayer and fasting, we can lighten the mood a bit as the Lord's coming gets nearer! This Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means "Rejoice", which is the first word of the traditional Introit for the third Sunday in Advent. (from Philippians 4:4-5 Rejoice in the Lord always). The priest may wear rose-pink vestments on this day for Holy Communion. We do not have any rose vestments at Kirton in Lindsey as they are quite rare, but a set was given to Grayingham St Radegund's recently, and they will be worn today. Gaudete!



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