Advent begins today and lasts for four weeks. It is a time of preparation.
Among the seemingly endless holiday details that Christians have to attend to — travel, holidays, decorating, and so on — it is easy for spiritual preparations for Jesus’ birth to get lost.
Even for the most genuine Advent, which begins this year on Sunday, November 27, is a four-week-long season that is less about the Advent of the Messiah and more about celebrating Santa Claus and all the secular trappings than it is about the Messiah’s arrival on Christmas Day.
Everything about liturgy
Advent in the Catholic Church is a liturgical year similar to Lent in tone and content, according to John Prust, director Office for Family Life and Spirituality for San Diego.
Prust states that Advent, like Lent, is a personal journey. It allows us to look inward and prepare for Christ’s coming into the world as the baby Jesus. We have the chance to look inward so that Christmas Day arrives prepared.
Catholics believe that the 12 days of Christmas start on Christmas Day and continue through Epiphany on January 6. The three kings are believed to have followed the star to Jesus’ manger. He adds that each Christmas tradition is symbolic.
“We often celebrate Christmas starting in November right after Black Friday. But our traditions remind us that Christmas isn’t here yet.”
Prust asserts that the liturgical calendar of the church mirrors life’s journey.
“While Christmas is celebrated with great joy, many social justice themes are associated with the Christ child who was born in a manger. Christ’s birth emphasizes the need to help others in similar situations.
Many Catholic families use Advent calendars to remind their families that the four weeks leading to Christmas are a time for spiritual reflection and preparation. Each candle and week has a theme. The first candle stands for hope, the second represents faith, the third represents joy, and the fourth represents peace.
Prust states that Advent reminds us what Christmas is all for. We can either get caught up in commercialism or prepare our hearts to receive Jesus’ birthday.
Celebrations that last for months
Stephen Gulley, All Peoples Church Worship Pastor, says they take a biblical approach to Advent. They celebrate the whole month of December by preaching through the story about Jesus’s birth. “Messages and music that celebrate the beauty and gift that Jesus offered at Christmas will be featured in our Sunday services.”
Gulley believes the December 7 tree-lighting outside the church will start the Christmas season. The church’s outdoor tent hosts a non-traditional Christmas show that features ballet, tap, and hip-hop dances, as well as contemporary Christian music and poetry.
He says, “Advent per se” is not something we do as a church. The uplifting message of God’s goodness in sending us His Son is what we use.
December sees the church change colors to reflect the season. Ministers prepare each service to include the arc of Jesus’s birth.
Experience the Hope of Christmas is the theme for Christmas this year. For us, it starts with what we will be doing as we prepare for the season,” Gulley says. He points out that the church has a food distribution ministry and emphasizes serving the poor. Jesus was a refugee and needy when he was born.
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Faith is the foundation.
Barrabas Road Church, Ronson Road, intentionally holds only one Sunday service, according to Senior Pastor Matt Smith. This is so that everyone can see one another and the Body of Christ.
Smith explained that, although the church doesn’t celebrate Advent, Smith says that “for December, each sermon starts and ends with referencing the Incarnation.” It is relevant wherever you are in Scripture.” Members will conclude the Christmas celebration at the December 25 service.
He says Christmas is an excellent time to remind Christians of their faith. Christmas serves as a reminder that God is always at work, even during difficult circumstances. He gave birth to His son in the finest possible way and at the ideal time.
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The Diocese of San Diego’s Office for Evangelization and Catechetical Ministry offers a bilingual Advent Evening of Prayer at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, Carlsbad, at 6:30 p.m. December 1. It will feature meditation, music, and a reception hosted by Sister Rose Marie Tulacz. Sister Tulacz, also known as the Nun with a Nikon, is a Sisters of Notre Dame member. She founded Notre Dame Creations, a ministry of liturgical, fine art photography, and spirituality.
All Peoples Church will kick off Christmas with a tree-lighting ceremony on December 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the church at 5577 University Ave. The All Peoples Christmas Show, which features music, comedy, and drama in a family-friendly variety format, will take place at three Sunday services on December 11 at 3 p.m.
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