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Advent Traditon Helps Ground the Family

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If you ask any Catholic, they will tell you the season of Advent is a period of penance and preparing their heart for the coming of the Baby Jesus. But although not part of the Holy See’s opinion on Advent, the advent wreath, advent season and the family activities helps families stay focused on the real meaning of the season, Jesus, and not the commercialism Christmas has become.

Advent seems very needed in the present time but would you believe this liturgical season started back in in the fourth century. In its original for it was a period that was to prepare for the Epiphany and it was not originally part of the Christmas season. The Epiphany in the early days of Christianity was the celebration of the Baptism of Jesus but in the more modern time became associated with the arrival of the Wiseman to see the Christ Child. It was during this season originally that people would be baptized and came into the church. They 40 day period was for fasting and preparation. This process has been moved to Easter in the modern time.

In the Sixth Century, St. Gregory the Great was the first person to tie Advent to Christmas but  didn’t do it the way was now observe the season. He was suggesting that the period was better served to wait for the second coming as opposed to the annual reemergence of the Christ Child.

Once Christmas was assigned the date of Dec 25th it only seemed to make sense to tie advent to this date and make this the penitential period before Christmas. Advent is primarily a Christian Season and observed by Catholics, Orthodox, Anglican/Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian. The Protestant and Evangelical Christians are more and more using this season to keep their congregations focus on Christ. Many of the Eastern Christian Churches do go with the 40 days model for Advent as opposed to the 4-week model.

The protestant participation in Advent is seeing a rebirth in the last few years. Many are now using Advent within their churches. But what is most last effect of Advent is the focus on Faith. Each day and each week as the candles are lit on the advent wreath when done as a family allows for the focus shifted from gift giving to a daily reminder, pray or story about Jesus, the birth of Jesus, the promise of Jesus from the Old Testament or one of the points from the Jesse Tree stories.

In The Western churches, advent begins four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. If Christmas eve is on a Sunday that does count for the last Sunday of Advent and the Christmas Seasons starts after 4 p.m when the Services of Christmas start. In the Eastern Orthodox Churches, they begin Advent on Nov 15th and run for 40 days.

As any family battling to balance Faith in today’s culture Advent and the use of an advent wreath gives families the perfect way to keep Christ the focus and centerpiece of Christmas.

This article was published on Sunday 20 July, 2008.

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